Special Olympics World Summer Games

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Special Olympics 1.5 m Open Water Swim
The Special Olympics World Summer Games is a quadrennial sporting competition for Special Olympics athletes governing by Special Olympics International. The Special Olympics World Summer Games included a 1.5-kilometer open water swim as part of its official schedule. The first competition was held at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Athens, Greece. The 1.5 km open water swimming competition was held at the Schinais Sailing Center in the Bay of Marathon.

The competition was nominated for the 2011 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.

The 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held in Los Angeles, California, USA where the 1.5 km open water swim will be held in Marine Stadium.


2011 Course

The 1.5 km open water swim was held in the warm waters (78°F or 26°C) of the Bay of Marathon near the Aegean Sea. It was a two-loop rectangular course approximately 50 meters from a straight, sandy coastline in water between 1 - 8 meters in depth.

The World Summer Games also included a POW (Pool Open Water Swimming) exhibition in the 2004 Athens Olympics pool. The POW exhibition featured Olympic athletes and will demonstrate what the sport of open water swimming is all about in a fan-friendly, safe, enclosed environment.

World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year Nominee

The 1.5 kilometer open water swim at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games was nominated for the 2011 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year:

Pre-race Favorites

Andrew Smilley, winner of the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, from the Cayman Islands, and Cornelia Fowler of South Africa were considered the pre-race favorites at the World Summer Games 1.5K race. Andrew and Cornelia were considered the favorites due to their abundance of open water swimming experience in the Cayman Islands and South Africa respectively, but it was a very tight race with a thrilling finish, not only for these top athletes, but also for all the 35 swimmers entered in the unprecedented event on 1 July 2011.

Special Olympics CEO and Chairman Tim Shriver said on behalf of Andrew, "Far too often, our athletes, athletes with intellectual disabilities, are viewed for what they can't do. But Andrew Smiley is showing the world what he can do and we congratulate [his effort] for being selected as the Greatest Open Water Swim of 2009. Andrew's performance in the RCP Tiburon Mile is just one example of how Special Olympics athletes are accomplishing great things that many just dream to achieve."

Smilley and Fowler did become the fastest male and female swimmers in the competition.


Encouraged by Charlene Wittstock, the future princess of Monaco with a strong interest in open water swimming, the Special Olympics open water swimmers were separated in groups by their final times in the 800-meter freestyle in the pool. All the open water swimmers were required to compete and finish the 800-meter freestyle.

Maria Shriver and several politicians and VIPs were in attendance to cheer on the long-distance swimmers who competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics pool. The divisioning rounds for the 1.5K open water swim had some seriously fast swimmers including Elisabeth Mansoor of the Netherland (12:35) and Cornelia Fowler of South Africa (12:32, shown above together with Charlene and race officials).

On the men's side, Jin Young An of South Korea (9:50), young 14-year-old Sze Hou Ho of Hong Kong (10:00) and Andrew Smilley of the Cayman Islands (10:01) were the fastest swimmers. Other fast swimmers included Dong Han Kim of South Korea (10:56), Mason Coad of the USA (11:08) and Joshua Timbs of Australia (11:17) who should be up there in the lead pack during the 1.5K open water swim.

With the possibility of winds coming up along the two-loop coastal course, not only the aerobic conditioning of the athletes will be demonstrated, but also their navigational skills will be tested in the Mediterranean Sea.



Under beautiful conditions - blue skies, clear water, light, cooling breeze in the peaceful Aegean Sea, Andrew Smilley of the Caymen Islands led the field of 35 athletes from 19 countries at the World Summer Games 1.5K open water swim from nearly start to finish. The field was separated by gender - the men started 2 minutes and 20 seconds before the women.

After Wesley Klumper (17) of the Netherlands jumped out to a quick lead, Andrew and a pair of Koreans - Dong Han Kim and Jin Yong An - caught up and started to blaze a fast pace that they never relinquished.

Andrew gradually used his navigational IQ developed in the Cayman Islands to comfortably win the first division in 22:00.77. He never swam off-course and took the straight-line tangents from buoy to buoy in the two-loop rectangular course. Don Hang (23:04.78) and Jin Yong (23:26.69) were second and third respectively.

Cornelia Fowler of South Africa, her own skills honed at the Midmar Mile in her home country, similarly took it out and held her pace to win comfortably in 25:02.64. Elisabeth Mansoor of the Netherlands was the second-fastest women in 26:09.56 with Nadja Tonnesen of Denmark just behind in 26:15.62.

What was so amazing and beautiful to see is the tears of joy and appreciation that were shed at the end of the race. These athletes were so filled with gratitude of the opportunity to showcase their talents to the world that some of them broke down at the finish. Through their welled-up eyes, they waved and smiled broadly at the appreciative crowd who openly shared their joyful emotions at the celebration of open water swimming excellence and international camaraderie.

It was certainly a day to remember. Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver who was onshore during the race was similarly touched, "Those athletes were great. What a wonderful competition. I was very impressed with them."

The final times of the athletes were as follows:

Men (regardless of divisioning):
1. Andrew Smilley (Cayman Islands) 22:00.77
2. Dong Han Kim (Korea) 23:04.78
3. Jin Yong An (Korea) 23:26.69
4. Joshua Timbs (Australia) 23:47.80
5. Eduardo Rodriguez (Guatemala) 26:25.64
6. Wesley Klumper (Netherlands) 26:31.86
7. Matthias Attard (Malta) 27:15.33
8. Mattetyahu Oren (Israel) 27:20.80
9. Ricardo Aponte (Puerto Rico) 27:38.44
10. Guy Wartikowsky (Israel) 28:05.31
11. Javier Mejia (Honduras) 28:38.30
12. Dylan Coop (Australia) 28:52.24
13. Eric Marchetti (Italy) 29:37.43
14. Heriberto Torres (Puerto Rico) 29:43.69
15. Suk Il Hwang (South Korea) 20:11.03
16. Efrain Gomez (Puerto Rico) 30:47.12
17. Alex Vaca (Ecuador) 31:27.21
18. Gregory Black (Australia) 31:28.32
19. Mitchel Lopez (Curacao) 33:40.30
20. Samuel Silver (USA) 34:01.99
21. Alexandros Panagiotou (Greece) 39:00.85
22. Georgios Papadopoulos (Greece) 38:19.65
23. Ela Zohar (Israel) 38:41.77
24. Wensley Gysbertha (Curacao) 39:14.65
25. Michalis Kokkoris (Greece) 39:48.16
26. Zisis Dimoshakis (Greece) DNF

Women (regardless of divisioning):
1. Cornelia Fowler (South Africa) 25:02.64
2. Matthijs van Doorn (Netherlands) 26:07.48
3. Elisabeth Mansoor (Netherlands) 26:15.62
4. Nadja Tonnesen (Denmark) 26:09.56
5. Wenda Schippers (Netherlands) 28:30.60
6. Adriana Newton (Puerto Rico) 30:38.48
7. Flor Mendez (El Salvador) 32:05.23
8. Aisling Beacom (Ireland) 33:09.17
9. Opal Alon (Israel) 36:09.29

Photos courtesy of Bruckner Chase.

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