Friend helps athlete in quest for success

By Ben Guild

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A budding friendship based on a shared love of dance is helping Tauranga athlete Kelly Nathan head to the disabled nationals in two sports this year.

Nathan, a 23-year-old with Down's syndrome, is a competitive swimmer and skier, and will head to the nationals for each in the coming months with the help of an old school friend, Shannon Julian.

The two met at Mount Maunganui College and have been close ever since.

"I went to school with Kelly and I was in his dance class and he always needed a hand with a few things and I was always there," said Julian.

"His mum approached me to be his support worker about three years ago."

At first, the duo's fundraising efforts failed to have the desired effect.

"We were selling feijoas, but it wasn't making nearly enough money," said Julian.

"We needed $500, but I knew some people and asked around and they were more than generous, which was great."

Those people were the management of the Papamoa branch of The Warehouse, who decided to place donation boxes in store to help Nathan on his way.

The money was swiftly raised for the first of the two trips, with any surplus cash to go towards subsidising the travel expenses of the Tauranga Special Olympic swimming team.

Nathan will contest the 50m freestyle and backstroke in Dunedin in November after training for about three years, after tackling the slalom at the first of his tilts for a national title in Wanaka in August.

He has been skiing for many years, and based on the way he was pounding out laps at Baywave on Saturday morning, a double does not seem out of the question.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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