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Lam Kin Wai: Swim to Create a New Sky

Having a different starting point, 19-year-old Special Olympics athlete Lam Kin Wai has created a new sky of his own through his accumulative efforts. His mother recalls that when she gave birth to Lam, the doctor had already told her to be mentally prepared to take care of her child for the rest of her life. Confirmed with Down Syndrome, Lam learned to become independent through swimming; his family is not worried about his daily life or when he leaves Macao for competitions. For his perseverance, Lam simply and directly says: “Because I like swimming!”


Learned to become independent


Many Macao athletes are identified through summer activities, and Lam was no exception. In Lam’s eighth summer, he met coach Siu Yu Ning, following which he joined the big Special Olympics family. Enthusiastic about swimming, Lam’s skills have gradually improved to the point where he represents Macao in competitions in such places as Italy, Portugal, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Whilst broadening his horizons, he has also learned to become independent. He can now go to swimming pools on his own without having to be accompanied by his family. He smiles and says confidently: “I go by bus, it’s very close.”


Entrusted with a big responsibility


Having participated in the Special Olympics Swimming Team for eleven years, Lam has transformed from a novice to a big brother in the team. His coach has entrusted him with a big responsibility with respect to daily training: Lam guides his juniors in their warm-up exercises and supervises their assembly. Lam hopes to serve as a role model for his juniors, enabling young athletes to understand that they have to treat swimming seriously. He says: “I’m not afraid to face them. I only want to serve as a good example. I will devote full effort to training.”


Delighted to witness growth


Exercising improves Lam’s health and has helped him mature. Lam’s mother says: “He was very stubborn in the past but has changed a lot now. He’s now willing to listen to the coach, and can even handle miscellaneous daily matters on his own”. She further revealed that her son is extremely enthusiastic about swimming and insists on training despite heavy rain or other unfavourable weather conditions. In the past two years, with the assistance of the Special Olympics, Lam has also participated in the Dragon Boat Races, as he did last month.


Giving full support


Lam’s mother recalls the doctor’s comment when she gave birth to her son, and worried a lot as she was afraid that she would not be able to take care of him. To accompany him in his growing process and give him better care, she devoted all her time to him and thus had no time for a job. Witnessing his transformation in recent years - now able to take care of himself for daily matters, go to school and swimming pools for practice on his own – she feels very comforted as he is now independent. She hopes that other families with a special needs member like her can also emerge from the shadow, mentioning: “I serve as a volunteer in the Special Olympics, continually telling parents to accompany their children for exercising and participating in various kinds of activities”. With a personal and deep experience, she says that people with special needs have to be more involved in society in order to integrate.



Siu Yu Ning: See their qualities


Having served as a swimming coach for the Special Olympics for 24 years, Siu Yu Ning zealously guides Lam, whether in swimming skills or his manner in treating others or handling matters. He is delighted to see him continually grow, remarking: “We hope that athletes can develop comprehensively and integrate into society; we hope that they’re accepted by others and what others see is not their shortcomings but their qualities”.


Build up deep feelings


Changing from a swimming coach for regular swimmers to one for Special Olympians, Siu has already trained batches of athletes. His perseverance is largely due to support from his family and the special feeling he has towards the athletes. Siu says: “They’re very sincere. Given appropriate instructions, they are very hard working. My twenty-four-year coaching experience in the Special Olympics has certainly built up some deep feelings inside me”. He continues to share his coaching experience: “I have to break down each movement in small detail, understand their special needs and build favourable relationships with the athletes and their families. More importantly, I have to make the athletes realise and appreciate the joy of swimming”.


Hopes to transform the swimmers


Having witnessed Lam’s growth, Siu recalls: “Lam was like a child in the past, with the temper and timidity of a child. He has changed a lot now, becoming more conscious of himself and more responsible. He’s also willing to communicate with others”. Lam’s swimming journey was not without obstacle. Last year, before he participated for the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece, he was suspended from training due to backbone problems for about six months. Siu reveals: “While Lam was receiving physical therapy, he couldn’t train and was thus very unhappy. On recovering, he became very radical during training in order to catch up with the others and compete in his best condition. At the beginning, we had to beware of his emotions and reduce training”.


Recently, to further cultivate Lam’s responsibility, he has been encouraged to guide other team members to do the warm-up exercises. Siu explains: “The purpose is to make potential athletes more mature. When they participate in competitions, they can handle their own matters independently. Lam has demonstrated very significant change”. Siu further revealed that as athletes grow older they encounter employment problems. The Special Olympics hopes that training for sports can also be extended to cover other areas, thereby helping athletes transform.