Nathan Pearce admits he wasn't too keen on becoming an Olympian.
Not in the desert, anyway.
He'd heard everyone ate camel meat and dates and he'd decided it may have all been a "bit too different" to the comforts of home at Wodonga.
Nathan, 18, had made a big splash in the pool to secure a place to represent Australia at the 2019 World Games Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi.
With the support of his foster parents and swimming coaches, the young man with an intellectual disability worked at overcoming his fears and improving his fitness and swimming style to dive in to this amazing overseas adventure.
Quietly-spoken Nathan did not disappoint, smashing nine seconds off his personal best time to claim silver in the 50-metre breaststroke and a bronze in the 4x50-metre freestyle relay.
As proud as he is of his achievements in the water, it is out of the pool that Nathan relished expanding his horizons.
During five days of orientation before the swim events at Dubai, he was given a chance to marvel at Middle Eastern architecture, visit an international school and sample lifestyle and culture of the region.
And, he admitted, the food was "pretty okay" too.
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The spectacles of the opening and closing ceremonies proved a real eye-opener as Nathan was given the chance to march into a huge stadium and mingle with 7000 athletes from 170 countries.
In what proved to be a huge honour, this natural-born swimmer was chosen to recite the athletes' pledge at the commencement of the swimming competition.
"Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt," he faithfully recited back home in the family lounge room on Wednesday.
Special Olympics squad coach Brenton Falkner was "lost for words" when he heard of Nathan's success overseas.
Falkner, who has trained the young swimmer at the Wodonga Sports & Leisure Centre for the past two years, said Nathan's determination and hard work had paid off with the results he attained.
"He worked his bottom off - I mainly helped him with diving and lots of technique," Falkner said.
"Nathan has a natural ability as well as being a quick learner.
"He's so easy to work with; I told him what he needed to do and he just did it himself.
"I've loved the journey - I feel like I'm the guy riding on his coat-tails."
As for his foster family - dad Alan, mum Judith and sisters Alannah and Melanie, who were all there to cheer him on at Dubai - well they are still beaming with pride.
"I just told him to give it your best shot - and he absolutely did," Mrs McKeown said.