A record three Te Awamutu swimmers have made the New Zealand team to compete in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi next year.

Unity Collins, Deshan Walallavita and Portia Johnson will be heading overseas in March, 2019 to compete at the competition, which pitches 7000 athletes against each other in 24 sports.

Head coach for aquatics at Special Olympics Te Awamutu Shelley Blair cannot recall three swimmers ever being selected from any one club before.

"This is an honour for our club to have these athletes represent New Zealand at the World Games. The event offers athletes a chance to demonstrate their sporting abilities and independence on a world stage.


"Competing internationally is not something all our athletes are able to do. It's quite a commitment, not only in training but also preparation for travelling, time changes and cultural differences.

"The selected team members will be fantastic ambassadors for New Zealand."

All three Te Awamutu swimmers are ecstatic to be bound for Abu Dhabi.

Unity Collins said she yahooed and was jumping up and down for joy after coach Blair told her she had been selected.

"I was very excited. For me, I will be swimming for Special Olympics and my country.

"I've made a lot of new friends through Special Olympics and love travelling to meets.

"I'm looking forward to representing New Zealand."

"I was so happy to be selected to represent New Zealand," Deshan Walallavita said.


"Swimming is my passion. I train hard to push myself to achieve personal bests.

"Going to World Games means a lot, it's an opportunity to showcase my ability at an international level and make Te Awamutu proud."

Portia Johnson will be competing at a world level for the first time, having worked towards the Summer Games for a number of years.

"I still can't believe that I'm swimming for New Zealand next year," she said.

"It feels like yesterday was the first time I touched the water, so thank you to everyone that's had to take me to swim trainings, but special thanks to my swim coach Shelley.

"I'm not sure how she's kept up with me for 10 years. So thanks Shelley very much for all of your hard work and what you have done for me, I will make you feel proud."

Blair has first-hand experience at this level, having attended the movement's 2015 World Summer Games in Los Angeles as coach for aquatics.

She was thrilled to be part of a Kiwi swim team which contributed four gold and three silver to the overall total of 11 gold, 12 silver and nine bronze medals won by the entire New Zealand Games team, which also competed in athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, equestrian, golf and powerlifting.

"The Games were an experience to say the least," says Blair.

"I saw courage, determination, tears and the fist pumps when they came last ... it wasn't something foreign to me, I see that here every time that I'm swim teaching or training and going to events."

"To have that many swimmers from one club make the eight-strong New Zealand swim team is truly an outstanding effort," said Trudi Bridges, regional team leader community and coach development.

"World Summer Games opportunities are very sought after by our athletes and they are very excited to be able to represent New Zealand at this level."

As well as swimming, New Zealand will be represented in athletics, bocce, equestrian, basketball, bowling and football.

Training camps will take place over the next six months around the country to enable athletes to hone their skills against local competition.