Special Olympian will be brave in bid for Games gold
Mr Bruce, 33, (right) has Down’s syndrome, and has been swimming since he was little. He started competing in the Special Olympics aged 11.
“There was someone [in Papua New Guinea, where he was born] who would be prepared to teach him swimming, so he went to learn swimming before he could walk,” says his mother, Liz Bruce.
In early December, he will attend the Special Olympics 2013 Asia-Pacific Games in Newcastle, New South Wales.
Including him, four Wellingtonians and 33 New Zealanders will be going.
The sports offered are aquatics, athletics, badminton, basketball, bocce – like bowls or petanque – bowling, cricket, football, and table tennis.
Mr Bruce jokes that he looks forward to “coming home with lots of medals” – preferably gold – but says more seriously that he most wants good results.
The Special Olympics are like the Paralympics, but are only for people with intellectual disabilities.
Athletes compete against their own personal bests as well as each other.
Each competitor has to raise $2000. Mr Bruce paid the $1000 down payment himself, but is raising the other half from grants and sponsorship.
Special Olympics clubs train weekly, although Mr Bruce is training twice-weekly in the run-up to the Asia-Pacific Games.
He swims 70 lengths each session, concentrating on freestyle and backstroke.
Like all Special Olympians, he has a fitness test every month, and records his daily food intake and exercise. The volunteer Special Olympics staff do the same.
There are four regional Special Olympics competitions a year, and a national competition every three years.
There are nationals in Dunedin in December this year, and the next ones after that will be in Wellington.
Mr Bruce has participated in two national Special Olympics – in Auckland and Palmerston North – but this will be his first international Special Olympics.