Members of Fergus Phantoms heading to Special Olympics

FERGUS – Three members of the Fergus Phantoms swim team, and their coach, are heading to the Special Olympics provincial games in May as part of the South Central Ontario Team.

This will be the first provincial spring games for swimmers Kenny Hurry, 22, Amy Shorton, 19, and Ryan Fox, 42, and coach Jerica Hamilton.

Swimmers with the Phantoms have intellectual disabilities, Hamilton said in an interview, but that hasn’t got in the way of their physical skill and Olympic spirit.

“These three were to go to the 2020 games but they were cancelled due to COVID,” Hamilton said.

Though they pre-qualified for the games, the trio has been working hard to keep their skills in tip-top shape.

“I’m so excited for them,” Hamilton said.

Sports in the Special Olympics include swimming, power lifting, 10-pin bowling,  rhythmic gymnastics and basketball.

The Phantoms belong to the Guelph-Wellington region, which is sending a total of 37 athletes and 12 coaches to the games.

The provincial competition will be in Waterloo Region May 23 to 26. Winners go on to Nationals next year.

Hamilton said she’s been involved with the Special Olympics since she was in elementary school, volunteering as a peer coach in Grades 7 and 8, and then throughout high school.

She also worked at the pool at the Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex, often teaching lessons to special needs children.

“After university I started volunteering again and I haven’t stopped,” said Hamilton, who is also a teacher in Guelph.

“It’s so worth it to see the athletes working hard and then seeing that work pay off. Swimming is an inclusive sport and it really builds confidence.

Hamilton added, “All of us coaches, we love the athletes and we’re big on having fun. But winning is pretty nice too.”

Hurry will compete in the 50-metre freestyle and backstroke events; Storton in the 50 and 100m freestyle, 50m backstroke and 50m breaststroke events; and Fox in the 25 and 50m freestyle, and 25 and 50m backstroke events.