The return of a Paralympic gold medallist has sparked the belief of young swimmers with a vision impairment during a “Winter Camp” in Queenstown.
Delivered collaboratively between Swimming New Zealand and Blind Sport NZ, 10 swimmers with varying levels of vision impairment took part in a 3-day camp – with the common highlight being mentored by London 2012 and Rio 2016 medallist Mary Fisher.
Having Fisher involved for the whole camp meant the swimmers aged between 10-24 were able to learn from her life skills, water skills, hear about her sporting journey, and handle her Paralympic medals.
SNZ Disability and Para Swimming Participation Manager, Cameron Leslie, said it was a great continuation of the “Summer Camp” ran earlier this year – with more participants and a higher quality of activities offered.
“Having Mary there was perfect. She’s such a warm and engaging person. She was able to bring the group together organically but also teach everyone involved something about how to work more effectively with someone living with a vision impairment."
“Earlier this year we connected like-minded participants and families with each other in our “Summer Camp”, and we continued that but raised the bar during the “Winter Camp."
“We know there are vision impaired swimmers around the country who feel like they are swimming by themselves. But they are not. There are others like them doing the same thing – they just don’t cross paths.”
A personal highlight for Leslie was seeing Fisher back racing, after being called out by one of the swimmers who wanted to test themselves against her. Whilst Fisher still has it, there is a promising future for vision impairment swimming outside of her.
During the camp participants had several water sessions, a guest speaker, and an indoor skydiving experience with iFly Queenstown – all of which were delivered within a supportive environment where the participants’ impairment was common.
Blind Sport NZ Community and Programmes Lead, Jemma Drake, was proud to witness the growth during the camp and agreed it was a success.
“Blind Sport NZ is proud to have collaborated with Swimming NZ for another successful swimming camp."
“The improvements and confidence in each and every one of the swimmers was a joy to watch over the three days under some expert coaching. I hope it has inspired a new generation of swimmers."
“Connecting with families and seeing connections and friendships formed over the duration of the weekend was the icing on the cake – showing the importance of having these moments to bring people together.”
The concept behind the camp is for SNZ and BSNZ to grow the water confidence and physical literacy of those living with a vision impairment. Alongside this, both organisations want to reengage with swimmers with a vision impairment and reconnect the role models from the sport with the new generation.
There will be a “Summer Camp” held in Auckland early in 2024, for more information email firstname.lastname@example.org