ALANNAH McKeown is proud.
Not just because she recently won gold and silver in the pool at the state championships in Melbourne.
And just not because she will now be one of four Ovens and Murray representatives at the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games in December.
But because she will wear team Australia’s colours at the opening ceremony.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new people and feeling proud of wearing the green and gold,” Alannah, 17, said.
“I love Australia and hope the other competitors enjoy their time here.”
About 400 competitors from 32 countries will be at the games in Newcastle which coincide with International Day of People with Disability.
A student at Belvoir Special School, Alannah, who has Down syndrome, will represent Australia in the 25-metre freestyle after starting with Special Olympics last year.
Also selected for the games from Ovens and Murray were Rose Croxford, Alan Poole (both bocce) and Elissa Thiele (tenpin bowling).
Equally proud of Alannah’s achievements was mum, Judith, who watched on as her daughter took gold in the 25-metre freestyle and silver in the 25-metre backstroke.
“I tried not to scream because mothers are embarrassing,” she said.
“It was close up to halfway then she moved away and the others backed off.”
Winning was only part of it, though.
“I’d entered Alannah for her first competition and I had no idea if I was setting her up for failure,” Mrs McKeown said.
“But I wanted her to have an opportunity to stretch beyond her community, to create new links and meet other people.
“She’d watched the Olympics with her dad, Alan, and I think it really did resonate with her — everyone was in their uniforms and they lit the flame.
“And when she was asked what was the best part of it all it wasn’t winning gold, it was being part of the event and the sense of occasion.”
Alannah has lessons at Wodonga’s Seal Swim School with instructor Simone Garrett who said the school was putting in a submission for a Learn To Swim School Disability Support Grant through Swimming Victoria.
“My goal would be to develop students’ skills and also work towards putting together a team of swimmers,” she said.
Sharon Muggivan, chief executive of Aware Industries and chairwoman of the Special Olympics Ovens and Murray committee, said sport had a positive influence.
“We always look at encouraging sports because of its impact on health and well-being,” she said.
“There’s also the social aspect, it’s all about participation.”
About 40 Ovens and Murray participants play bocce, basketball, swimming and tenpin bowling.
“Competitions give them a goal to look forward to,” Mrs Muggivan said.
“They also have to attend a certain number of training sessions.
“It keeps participants active and gives them a goal to work towards.”
Alannah is the only aquatics member from Ovens and Murray but it’s hoped her example would encourage others to help build a local team.