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Parent to Parent Coastal Bay of Plenty regional coordinator Jane Ford is a volunteer swim trainer with Special Olympics Tauranga and has 26 years experience in the field, or should we say ‘in the pool’. 

Jane’s sons volunteered at Special Olympics Tauranga when they were teens and her eldest suggested that she give it a go. Jane exclaims “…he thought it would be something I would love, and I really do just love it. I am amazed that I get out of bed on a Saturday morning for it!”

Jane volunteers as she wants to put her swimming and teacher aiding experience to good use. Jane says “Not only do the swimmers gain better swimming skills, it is also a way of building confidence and helping everyone step up and do more than they ever thought they could.”

Jane was a key component to swimmer Kelly Nathan’s training for the World Games in Abu Dhabi earlier this year where they trained together three times, including a bit of ocean swimming. Kelly placed well in all of his events and really enjoyed his experience.

The duo are now working on a new programme together as they prepare for the 2021 National Summer Games to be held in Hamilton. Kelly is taking ownership of his training and working Jane hard! He likes to be in charge. Athletes chosen for the 2021 Games in Hamilton have a good chance at being nominated for the 2023 World Games in Germany and Kelly is using this as motivation for his training. Kelly also represents New Zealand at the Special Olympics in skiing and works at McDonalds in Papamoa.

There are usually between 6-8 strong swimmers chosen for the New Zealand team who also have to show stamina, good behaviour, independence, the ability to fly long distance and be away from home for three weeks. For some athletes, going to National Games is the first time they’ve travelled away from home. It’s a wonderful achievement for the athletes to be nominated for the big games, but what they really love is the opportunity to socialise, be independent and the chance to travel the world.

Jane ’s motto is ‘Teach to the swimmer’s ability not their disability’, and that is the secret to their success.

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