Hawke's Bay swimmers have returned with a swag of medals and personal best times at the end of the Special Olympics Trans Tasman Tournament in Hamilton.

The 17-member Bay contingent, including six coaches and supervisors, returned home last weekend with 11 gold, 14 silver and 11 bronze medals at the third games.

The swimmers, who were competing against 420 fellow athletes of all ages with intellectual disabilities from throughout New Zealand and Australia, also recorded 10 fourth placings, six fifths, seven sixths and eight highly commended achievements amid personal best times.

The tourney has been created to give athletes more opportunity to compete, particularly those with higher needs that may not otherwise have the opportunity to compete internationally.

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Day one started at Waterworld with an opening ceremony that included a powhiri from Waikato Ngati Maahanga, official welcome of VIPs, athletes, team management and families.

The Special Olympics New Zealand as well as New Zealand and Australian flags were raised before the Flame of Hope arrived.

A similar ceremony was held at the athletics venue, Porritt Stadium, where the cauldron was lit and remained so for the duration of the tournament.

The Special Olympics is about participation and doing one's best.

"We are not about elite sport but about everyone having the opportunity to compete and to be included", says Kathy Gibson, CEO of Special Olympics New Zealand.

Close to 150 volunteer coaches and management staff and more than 500 family members as well as an army of volunteers from Waikato contributed to its success, according to Bay Special Olympics sport co-ordinator Margaret Baker.