#TGW: Pooling Their Talents

Sept. 22, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Olympic Dreams taking shape at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center is nothing special.

It’s a common occurrence, especially since the Yellow Jackets Swimming and Diving has begun preparing for its 2014-15 season.

But on Sept. 6 there was something different about the Olympic Dreams that took shape at the facility. The mood was special. It was inspirational.

It was as special and as inspirational as the nearly 100 Olympians who looked to fulfill those dreams — Special Olympic dreams — when Georgia Tech, working in concert with Special Olympics Georgia, hosted the First Annual Special Olympics Georgia State Swimming Invitational.

“Our kids swam and they cheered,” said Georgia Tech swimming and diving head coach Courtney Shealy Hart. “The Special Olympians swam everything from a 100 individual medley to 25 [meters] of each stroke. It was a broad range of events for them.”

The event was the result of nearly a year’s worth of conversations and planning by Hart and Michael Wilson, Sports and Program Manager for Special Olympics Georgia, himself a former swimmer and Atlanta native. The biggest issue to overcome was figuring out when to hold the event. Where was never an issue.

“He’s said, `It would be fantastic to get us to the Georgia Tech pool,’ knowing that it’s one of the best pools in the entire country,” said Hart. “We’d been working since April 2013. He really wanted to showcase Georgia Tech because it’s a great school. So we finally got it together.

“It was basically a timing issue, from when the pool wasn’t in use until when it would be good for Special Olympics,” she added. “Of course, the pool had some renovations done last spring into summer so we had to take that into account as well.”

Getting volunteers to help out was easy. The entire Yellow Jackets Swimming and Diving team was up for that.

Georgia Tech student-athletes could be found at every turn at GTAC as the Special Olympians, who came from all over the state of Georgia freestyled, backstroked, breast stroked, butterflied and IM’ed their way through the pool. Tech’s swimmers even got an opportunity to get in the pool and participate side-by-side with the Olympians.

“Whatever they needed help with we did,” said Hart. “They helped escort the Special Olympics Athletes to their correct heats and lanes. Some of our athletes timed, we had an athlete that was the starter for the meet. Our athletes actually swam in some mixed relays. It was a fantastic event.

“I think it was great for our athletes to be able to be a part of it and help Special Olympic athletes that train and want to do well in the sport of swimming just like our athletes do,” she added. “It was an amazing experience.”

Ideally it’s an experience that will continue to take place and continue to grow in the coming years.

“Our goal, is to keep it at Georgia Tech and keep doing it,” Hart said. “We want to continue to help them out and continue to see it grow.”

For more information on Special Olympics Georgia please visit www.specialolympicsga.org.

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