Competing in faith: Pictures

THE first ever regional Special Olympics was a smashing success over the weekend.

The two-day carnival was dubbed the Games of Faith in honour of Bendigo's only gold-medal Olympian, the late Faith Leech.

Special swimming team the Barracudas head coach Michele Bearryman-Cooper said the name of the event was important to everyone involved.

More than 100 athletes competed in more than 80 swimming and ten-pin bowling events over the weekend.

The games opened with a ceremony at Peter Krenz Leisure Centre in Eaglehawk, with the Bendigo Special Olympics swimming squad and members of Victoria Police lighting an Olympic torch. 

Ms Bearryman-Cooper said the whole weekend was a success. 

She said the athletes who competed enjoyed being part of a team.

"They are able to take on another identity that is theirs and no one elses," she said of her own team of swimmers.

"One young boy in my team refused to train just because he forgot his team bathers."

Ms Bearryman-Cooper said it was the pride of each athlete to be a part of their own team.

She said there were so many people from the community who contributed to the weekend.

"Our volunteers have such big hearts," she said.

She said people were curious about Special Olympics.

She said the day would not have been possible without help from businesses in the area.

They all responded well to being involved.

Australian swimming legend Dawn Fraser was a guest at the event and wished good luck to all competitors. 

"I am here on behalf of my good friend Faith Leech, who passed away in September last year," she said. 

"I just wanted to say good luck to all the swimmers and I hope you enjoy your time."

With a perpetual trophy created this year, the event is planned to continue for many years to come.