Tauranga's Kelly Nathan is about to represent New Zealand at next month's Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi - but before that, his focus is on another event.
The 28-year-old has entered tomorrow's Generation Homes Sand to Surf, competing in the 500m swim event which he is using as extra training for the world games between March 14-21.
Nathan's 500m swim is just one race athletes can enter as part of the Sand to Surf event, which has been running for 13 years this weekend, hosting more than 35,000 swimmers since its inception in 2006.
Other races include a new 1.25km lap around Moturiki Island, a 2.6km swim around Moturiki and Motuotau Islands, three distances in the Banana Boat OceanKids Series such as a 100m swim for kids aged 7 and 8, the 200m distance for those aged 9 and 10 and a 300m swim for 11 and 12-year-olds as well as the debut Amphibian event, which is a 500m swim followed by a 4.5km run around the base of Mauao that can be completed as an individual or a duo.
Tomorrow's Sand to Surf event is Nathan's first and one of his trainers, Jane Ford, says he has been working with her about three times a week in between work commitments and his own swim training with his mum and swim club.
"We're doing that together with two others from Special Olympics," Ford says.
"He's really passionate, he just wants to get in there and do it," she says.
The Special Olympics Tauranga swimmer is no stranger to working hard to achieve his goals, having been with Special Olympics since 2007 when one of his first events was in Snowsports.
As part of her training, Ford, who has been with Special Olympics for about six months but has 26 years experiences as a swim coach, gets in the water with those she helps. She says Nathan enjoys being able to train with another person in the water because it allows an extra push.
She says because this is his first time doing this Sand and Surf event they wanted to start with the 500m race, with the potential to increase the distance at future events.
"He's so keen to please and do well, he'll just put his whole heart into it."
Once this weekend's race is complete, he'll continue his training for Abu Dhabi.
Ford says to represent New Zealand at the world games the total cost of his trip is $12,500. She says while Tauranga Special Olympics helps with $10,000 each athlete has to come up with $2500. Through his givealittle.co.nz/cause/kellys-world-games-dream website, a total of $1930.00 had been donated as of yesterday afternoon.
Generation Homes Sand to Surf:
Date: Saturday, February 9.
Location: Mount Maunganui Main Beach.
Time: From 9am.
Age range of competitors: 7-83.
Races on offer: 2.6km swim, 1.25km swim, 500m swim, 300m swim, 200m swim, 100m swim and the Amphibian, which is a 500m swim and a 4.5km run.
Safety: Every swim distance is overseen by surf lifesavers.