Judy and Julian can take great credit for all their hard work in pool

Judy and Julian can take great credit for all their hard work in pool

Some of the athletes and parents at the recent Cork Special Olympics end of year gala at Mayfield pool. Photo: Pat Bransfield. No Repo Fee.

SWIMMING is one of the most popular sports in the world. Unlike other sports, swimming is a life skill that is taught, initially to ensure safety and secondly for sports and competitive purposes. 

It also contributes to a long list of documented health benefits.

The Cork Special Olympics Swimming Club was founded in 1990 by Judy Cahill and her son Julian with the aim of offering her son Paul an opportunity to learn to swim. 

The club affiliated to Special Olympics Ireland in 1993. The Club began operating from Churchfield pool before making a move to Lota Swimming Pool in late 1993. Numbers increased rapidly which necessitated a return to the Churchfield base in December 1998. 

The 25m pool in Churchfield provided optimal training opportunities for the athletes and the club continued to thrive.

Christine O’Halloran joined the coaching team as Head Coach in 2000. But in 2001 Churchfield pool had to close for renovations and the club again faced the dilemma of finding a home base. 

O’Halloran arranged for a move to Mayfield pool, which remains the club’s home to this day.

The club membership numbers continued to expand which led to difficulties trying to manage availability at Mayfield, together with a widening range of ability and age groups, so the decision was taken by the management committee to add an additional session at Lota. 

Daniel O'Connell, Cork Special Olympics athlete, embraces his father after successfully completing his swim at the recent end of year gala in Mayfield. Photo: Pat Bransfielfd NO Repo Fee.
Daniel O'Connell, Cork Special Olympics athlete, embraces his father after successfully completing his swim at the recent end of year gala in Mayfield. Photo: Pat Bransfielfd NO Repo Fee.

The athletes at the Lota sessions are in very good hands, as long standing coach, Sharon McKeon, who has been with the club since it’s foundation, took on the Head Coach position for that squad.

Like all other sporting clubs, the Cork Special Olympics Swimming Club was devastated by the closure of all swimming pools during the Covid Pandemic Lockdown period. 

They tried to maintain the link with members through regular Zoom sessions and outdoor activities when restrictions allowed.

All at the club were overjoyed when normal activities resumed late in 2021. 

Athletes were welcomed back to training and the club enjoyed an influx of new members. 

Training continued throughout the year culminating in an end of year gala, held at Mayfield pool on 28th May.

The Special Olympics Athlete Oath is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt”. 

That ethos is very much in evidence when one attends a Special Olympics event.

There was great excitement and cheering for all athletes in each of the events as all were delighted with an opportunity to race and compete after a three year absence. 

It was a first opportunity to compete for a number of the athletes and they were encouraged in their efforts by the more experienced athletes. 

The primary objective of the day was that everyone got an opportunity to participate. 

The proceedings were overseen by the cherished team of club coaches and all athletes received a medal in recognition of their performance.

The medals were presented at an end of year party, held at Mayfield GAA. 

After displaying their swimming prowess earlier in the day, the athletes enjoyed displaying their dancing abilities at the presentation disco. 

Hot food served on the night was sponsored by Ryan’s Supervalu in Glanmire, to whom the club are extremely grateful for their continued support.

With the swimming season finished for the year, a number of the athletes also competed in the Mixed Ability Rugby World Cup in Musgrave Park from 5th – 10th June.

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