ForJason Norminton, swimming is more than a pastime — it is a passion.
The hours of pool-time drills and training coupled with time spent in the gym have made him fit and ready to take on the world. And in fact, that is exactly whatJason recently did.
The sixth International and World Competition convenedby theDown Syndrome International Swim Organization was hosted by Loano, Italy in November and theBrandonswimmer was part of Team Canada that travelled there to compete.
Twenty onenations participated, with more than 200 swimmers taking in the competition. The world event is held every two years, although many of the participating countries and continents haveDown syndrome events on an annual basis.
Previous DSISO events have been held in the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa,Portugal, andTaiwan, athletes must meet an international standard to be accepted for participation.
Team Canada consisted of nine swimmers from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta.
The athletes did extremely well in both International and World divisions, bringing home 29 individual medals in International competition, two relay medals as well as a bronze medal and gold medal (synchro) for individual event. They also got a bronze medal for a relay in World competition.
ForNorminton,who swims with both theBrandonSpecial Olympics team and the Brandon Bluefins Swim Club, it was a very successful meet.
As part of the Canadian men’s relay team, he won a bronze in the World competition. In personal races, Norminton managed aninth World placing in his50-metre backstroke, anda Top 14 finish in theWorld standing in the100-and 200-metre backstroke,as well as the 200-metre individual medley.
In the preliminary International competition,Norminton had silver medals for his 50-metre fly and200-metreindividual medley, a bronze medal for his50-metre backstrokeand gold medals in his100-metre backstroke and the 4x50-metre medley relay.
The DSISO was formed a number of years ago when it was realized that swimmers with Down syndrome were not on a level playing field in competition with other people with learning disabilities who do not have the same physical disabilities often associated with Down syndrome.
DSISOprovides the opportunity to swim at a world class level through its World Championships and keeps world record information for swimmers with Down syndrome. At each championship, more countries join the organization and more world records are broken.
For members of the Canadian Down Syndrome Swimming Association, there is a desire to increase participation of individuals with Down syndrome at high levels of competition.
But their goal is also to foster the development of skills of athletes and to encourage other families with younger children of the capabilities, opportunities and health benefits that await their athletes who are willing to work at their sport.
While in Italy, athletes and their families had an opportunity to meet others from around the world, make new friends andlearn something about a new culture, as well as learning about opportunities and challenges facing individuals with Down syndrome in different countries.
Norminton was in the pool at a very young age as part of Red Cross swimming lessons because his parents saw swimming as a life skill essential for all their children.
He struggled early in his swimmingcareer — in fact, it took him three years to get past the beginners level — but heenjoyed going to the pooland eventually his skill set started to match his enthusiasm for the sport.
He then joined Special Olympicswhere, through competitionand training, his enthusiasm for the sport continued to grow and he eventually joined the Brandon Bluefins Swim Club.
His parents have only positive comments about the way the club welcomedJason and how all members have encouraged him to continually seek new goals.
"TheBluefinsswim team istruly a welcoming community that has helpedJasonachieve significant success in his sport," they said.
"Through the swimming he has learned so much, has gained self confidence and madewonderful friends."
Normintonsays the best part of the international competition was the excitement of competing against other athletes and cheering on team mates.
More information about the Canadian Down Syndrome Swimming Association can be found at http://cdssa.ca/who/who.htm.
The association is hoping to increase its membership before the next games in Mexico.