Late last year Te Awamutu Special Olympics held their annual prize giving ceremony where for the first time the award for Sports Person of the Year went to three athletes.

Swimmers Unity Collins, Portia Johnson and Deshan Wallallavita won the Cees Oosterman Memorial Trophy because of their successes while representing New Zealand in Dubai last March at the World Games.

The New Zealand swimming team won a total of 10 medals – the Te Awamutu trio collectively received five of these medals.

Deshan won his 50m butterfly race and finished second in his 100m freestyle and 4x50m medley. Unity placed second in her 50m freestyle race and Portia took the bronze in her 50m freestyle race.

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"They knew the World Games was going to be big but they trained extremely hard to get themselves to Dubai," said Coach Shelley Blair.

The Collins family trophy for the most improved female went to Sarah Griffin because of her motivation to learn and up skill in the pool.

Sarah Griffin (left) recieved the Collin's Family Trophy for the most improved female, she stands with Yvonne Collins. Photo / Supplied.
Sarah Griffin (left) recieved the Collin's Family Trophy for the most improved female, she stands with Yvonne Collins. Photo / Supplied.

Shelley said that on numerous occasions Sarah would take herself down to Livingstone's Aquatic Centre to practice outside of training hours and she learnt how to tumble turn and dive last year.

"She found that swimming really was her thing so she was really motivated to learn more skills," said Shelley.

"She was no doubt a recipient for the award because of how much her skills improved."

The most improved male award went to Alexs Clifton and he received the
vanderWee trophy.

Like Sarah, Alexs received the award because of his determination to learn new skills.

"He's only been with the club for a short time but already he's shown us that he has an immense amount of determination to achieve and learn," said Shelley.

"He has also indicated to the swim coaches that he is going to go far."

In more firsts, the Dowty Spirit Trophy went on to be awarded to a non club member.

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Retired sports editor of the Te Awamutu Courier, Colin Thorsen won for his continuous support for the club and its athletes.

"He found ways of bringing articles to life. It meant the world to our athletes every time they had a mention or saw their photo in the paper," said Shelley.

Colin Thorsen recieved the Dowty Spirit Trophy for his immense support for Te Awamutu Special Olympics. Photo / Supplied.
Colin Thorsen recieved the Dowty Spirit Trophy for his immense support for Te Awamutu Special Olympics. Photo / Supplied.

Tegan Crotty also received the Vernon Trophy from the National Summer Games in 2017.

The trophy is awarded to a New Zealand athlete who does their best in swimming events and shows true sportsmanship. Tegan received the trophy for coping with stressful and difficult situations entering and exiting the pool with lane rope restrictions.

The club thanked Ken and Heather Hagen of LJ Hooker for their donation of a van which Shelley says has enabled the athletes to go away to competitions with pride.

This year the club will be hosting a two-day event in the lead-up to the 2021 National Summer Games in Hamilton that many club athletes have their sights set on.