Courtesy: Jessica Bauer
Richmond VA- Nick Zweerink, 18, of Chesterfield, VA, a graduating senior at James River High School and a Poseidon Swimming athlete, has been chosen to compete in the Virginia State Special Olympics games, which will take place on June 12-13, 2015 in Richmond, VA. At the meet, Zweerink will be competing in 100 freestyle, 50 breaststroke and 50 backstroke.
Nick has been swimming since the age of five for various local teams including the Granite Marlins, the Tuckahoe Tiger Sharks where he won the “most improved” trophy, the Woodmont Wahoos and ACAC Dolphins. In April of 2014, Zweerink began training with Poseidon Swimming, a year-round USA Swimming Club based at The Collegiate School Aquatics Center in Richmond, VA. At the Poseidon Awards banquet this week, Zweerink was presented with the Perseverance Award by his coach, Mike Julian. “Nick is one of the few kids I have coached that loves hard work and will go the extra mile without being told. He absolutely loves the sport of swimming,” said Julian.
In June of 2014, Zweerink competed in the Special Olympics USA Games after winning a gold medal at the Virginia State Games. While training for the Special Olympics USA Games, Zweerink began practicing with Poseidon swimmer, Kyle Knachel, who was injured and unable to swim at that time. Knachel and several other volunteer swimmers from Poseidon, worked with the Special Olympics swimmers regularly, including Zweerink. After seeing his swimming progress and work ethic, they encouraged Zweerink to consider swimming full-time with Poseidon.
Zweerink was born with a connective tissue disorder which delayed motor development and his ability to walk until the age of two; he also has a mild intellectual disability. He sees a specialist at Johns Hopkins annually to monitor his heart and blood vessels for the development of aneurysms. “I have been in Special Ed since I was in first grade. I have a hard time with math, spelling and reading. I also have a hard time understanding some things that might be easier for other people my age to understand. I also have a hard time with fine motor skills. Another part of my disability is that it might be harder for me to be at really high levels in swimming, compared to people who don’t have a disability,” Zweerink said.
Despite all of his obstacles, Nick feels that swimming has played a huge role in helping him overcome his challenges. Several years ago, Nick listed his favorite activities as watching TV and playing video games. But after becoming more active with swimming, he has improved his physical health and has become more interested in reading, more active in his community and has taken more responsibility for managing his own life, such as communicating with his coaches and teachers.
Zweerink practices in the Senior I group at Poseidon, swimming alongside many who have helped him with his swimming over the past year. After receiving so much encouragement from the Poseidon swimmer volunteers, Zweerink was inspired to assist with the Special Olympics swimmers himself, helping those who are more severely disabled or just learning how to swim.
“There are so many people I would like to thank; it is hard to mention them all. I would like to thank Kyle Knachel and everyone at Poseidon and at Special Olympics of Virginia for all their help and support. I would like to thank everyone in my family for their support too,” said Zweerink. Next year, Zweerink will participate in Project Search, a full year internship for students with disabilities at St. Francis Hospital. Project Search is a joint project of Bon Secours, Chesterfield County Schools and VCU.
Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families and other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
Swimming news courtesy of Poseidon Swimming.