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Team N.S. preparing to make a splash at 2018 Special Olympics Games

Jessica Stewart, a member of the Nova Scotia Special Olympics swimming team, practises her technique at the Pictou County Wellness Centre on Saturday.
Jessica Stewart, a member of the Nova Scotia Special Olympics swimming team, practises her technique at the Pictou County Wellness Centre on Saturday. - Sam Macdonald

WESTVILLE ROAD

As the 2018 Antigonish Summer Games approach, the Special Olympic Swimming Team for Nova Scotia is fine-tuning skills in the water to make sure they’re ready to go in July and August.

The physically and technically demanding training camp was conducted on Saturday morning and afternoon at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
Head coach Alanna Mason said the team’s skills in the water have been coming leaps and bounds – and that paid off at their competition in the recent provincials, at the Dalplex in Halifax, where many team members achieved personal bests.
“They’ve been training since November when they started with a training camp, and the season has been great so far,” said Mason, who showed great pride in her team, comprised of swimmers from across the province, from Cape Breton to the Cobequid region. “We’re still very much in training mode, and not tapering it off for the games.”

Mason said that Team Nova Scotia “is 150-strong, and we have 15 of them,” referring to her swimmers showing tireless prowess and technical expertise navigating the pool lanes at the Pictou County YMCA.
And speaking of ‘technical expertise,’ Mason emphasized that a great deal of that is required in swimming competitions, noting that “it’s more than just swimming laps.”

While swimming requires physical endurance, swimmers also need to be efficient. The technical element includes starts (pushes off the wall of the pool), turns and breathing between strokes.
“You have to be fast on and off, because that’s where races are won and lost,” said Mason.
After their performance in Halifax, Mason said that Saturday morning was “a great chance to learn the technical stuff, and rules – and fine-tune the stuff we saw at the provincials that we wanted to correct.”
Mason was one of four coaches giving advice and support to the 14 swimmers. In addition to coaches, there were parents helping keep the athletes on track in everything from swimming technique to diet. In fact, later that day, a dietitian visited, providing advice on the right type of food the athletes would need to fuel their bodies for the demands of swimming competitively.

Mason acknowledged that there is much more going on than just jumping in the water and swimming, saying that “it takes a village to run a team program. Everyone contributes, we will get into the water to demonstrate things we want them to see, like turns.”

“It’s all about muscle memory – we show them what they need to be like so they know what it feels like.”

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