Buoyed by a four-medal performance at the B.C. Special Olympics Summer Games, Kelsey Simpson has set her sights on one day competing at the highest level.
“I would really like to compete in the world Special Olympics one day,” said the Metchosin resident who grew up in Colwood.
Her performance at the games, which took place July 6 to 8 in Kamloops, was a big step in that direction, putting her in position to try to qualify for the Canada Games next year.
Simpson, 27, earned a gold in the 50 metre backstroke, a silver in the 100 m backstroke, and bronze medals in the 100 m free and 100 m breaststroke.
“I was very surprised to win four medals,” she said. “But I trained really hard, so it’s a nice reward for all the hard work. I had a lot of fun and made some new friends, and Susan’s a great coach,” she said in reference to Susan Simmons, her swim coach for the past five years.
“I hope to go back to the Summer Games on the way to the Olympics,” said Simpson, who trains three times a week and attends Special Olympics practices once a week from October to February with that in mind.
Sports have been a passion for her from a young age.
She has competed in a wide variety since she was nine, including gymnastics, curling, baseball, bowling and golf. When she’s not in the pool, she works at Old Navy and in the library at Pacific Christian School, where she graduated in 2008.
“I like to read,” she noted. “I enjoy the work and being around the kids.”
Gardening is a favourite hobby for Simpson, who also volunteers as a spokesperson for Special Olympics. She has made presentations to the RCMP, the Running Room and at the annual Special Olympics Gala encouraging people to get involved and support the progam.
Her mother, Sylvia, said Special Olympics has had a huge impact on her daughter’s life. “It’s given her the chance to play the sports she loves and do things she may not have had the opportunity to do otherwise,” she explained.
Simmons, head coach of the Victoria Special Olympics Swim Club, said the B.C. Games experience has boosted Simpson’s confidence in ways that extend far beyond the pool.
One way that’s evident is that Simpson has approached her privately to work on her stroke, which is something she would not have done before, Simmons explained.
“It’s increased her confidence in herself in so many ways,” Simmons said. “It was a huge competition with several hundred swimmers, and it was Kelsey’s first extended time away from her home and her family, which was quite a challenge for her. I’m very proud of her for sticking that out, taking the initiative and being independent. All of the things she experienced outside of swimming are so valuable and go beyond sports. It’s a huge boost to her confidence and I’m just so proud of her.”
In all, 10 athletes from the Victoria area brought home 25 medals in swimming from the B.C. Summer Games. “It was a spectacular performance by our club,” Simmons said.
“I believe it was more medals than any other club.”