Gore women Haidee McRae is the top female Special Olympian freestyle swimmer in the country.
Haidee attended the National Summer Games, hosted by Special Olympics New Zealand in Wellington earlier this month, and placed in several top-division events.
Eastern Southland Special Olympian team manager Ruth McRae said McRae competed against males and females in her heats and final heats.
“Haidee placed third in her 400-metre freestyle. First and second place were both men, which means Haidee is the fastest female in New Zealand for 400-metre freestyle,” she said.
She also placed fourth in her 200m freestyle, fifth in her 100m freestyle and also competed in a relay with Mid Canterbury, the team coming third, she said.
“She competed in the top division against males and females in all of her events,” she said.
McRae’s swim coach, Mariano Garcia Nani, said she was now on track for next year’s competitions.
“It’s all about finding swim meets with different levels for Haidee to compete at, then she will build it up,” he said.
“She always gets a lot of admiration because she’s still improving.”
He was very proud of McRae’s’s efforts at the summer games, he said.
She knew when she needed to put the pressure on and step up her game.
“She pushes herself when she needs to.”
He was impressed with the way “she sacrifices herself and all the energy she uses for training – it’s a lot of dedication”.
Overall McRae’s top event was freestyle, he said.
“We have put a lot of focus on it this year.”
Her attitude was positive.
“Every time Haidee comes in, even if it’s at 6 or 7 in the morning, she comes in with a smile and is joyful. She may get angry if she doesn’t get a good result sometimes but most of the time she is very positive.”
For now McRae would continue to swim in as many meets as possible, the overall goal being to attend the world championships.
“It can be hard making that transition into worlds,” Ruth McRae said.
It was hard to be selected for it as “there are just so many swimmers trying to go”, she said.
“It’s perseverance. What other people may think is impossible, isn’t.”