How positivity drove this Canadian athlete to the top of the podium

Dec 18 2019, 1:41 pm

Throughout our lives, fear can either hold us back from pursuing wonderful opportunities or inspire us to push forward and take a leap of faith.

Some Canadians would let a chance at greatness pass them by, but not Saskatchewan’s 17-year-old Tianna (Tia) Zimmerman.

Five years ago, the UK-born teen still needed a life jacket at swim practice and an aqua belt at her first competition. Today, she’s a multi-medaled member of the Special Olympics Team Canada Swim Team and also competes in Floor Hockey.

It’s a pretty incredible story for someone who couldn’t swim just a few years ago.

Swimming pool/Shutterstock

The young athlete’s parents say that, in the beginning, she was so incredibly motivated by her achievement that she started participating on her own at public lane swimming for additional practice, and soon joined the summer swim club offered in her home community.

Zimmerman’s confidence grew with her skills in the pool, and she progressed from short freestyle and backstroke distances to the 800-metre freestyle, along with the butterfly and breaststroke events. She was determined to learn how to dive and flip-turn, approaching every challenge head-on — and excelling.

Beyond competing in the 2019 Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi, where she took home gold in the women’s relay and bronze in the 800-metre freestyle, Zimmerman took home a Gold, two Silver, and two Bronze medals at the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games Antigonish 2019. But that wasn’t all. At the Provincial Games, she won two Silver and two Bronze medals.

Special Olympics is a huge part of the teen’s family now: both because of her achievements and because her parents are soccer coaches for the grassroots organization.

Tiana Zimmerman/Special Olympics Canada

“Tia genuinely wants to see others succeed and will do whatever she can to help them reach their full potential,” her parents explained.

Through her hard work and dedication, and countless hours of practice at the pool, she has built up confidence and a great personal skill set. “She has adopted a more active lifestyle through swimming, is learning to fuel her body better, and is not afraid of speaking out and being an advocate for Special Olympics and for people with intellectual disabilities,” they said.

Zimmerman’s participation in the World Summer Games wouldn’t have been possible without the kindness of Canadians nationwide. Why? Despite its celebrated status in our country, Special Olympics Canada is a charitable organization that relies on public support.

With support from Kia Canada, the goal of the organization is simple: to enrich the lives of Canadians with an intellectual disability through sport. And this holiday season, you can help athletes like Zimmerman have access to programs, mentorship, and resources, by becoming a monthly donor.

Visit the official Special Olympics Canada website for more information.

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