Local Special Olympics Swimmer Trains Year Round, Prepping for USA Games

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The 2018 Winter Olympics have come and gone but in a few months there’s another set of Olympic games being held- the Special Olympics USA Games.

27-year-old John McHale has been swimming since he was 3 years old. These days, he trains 3 times a week year-round. Special Olympics offers a variety of sports and right now it’s basketball season, that means  many athletes don’t start practicing swimming until mid-march.

“Well john on the other hand no matter what is going on in Special Olympics world he is always swimming. He’s always practicing for swimming, and that’s his specialty sport and he is unique in that way,” says Melanie Frosch of SD Special Olympics.

The 6’7” athlete takes practicing to a new level.

“He has special coaching just specifically for diving, diving starts and turns in the water, and I honestly don’t know any other athletes in the state that have specialty coaches like that,” says Frosch.

John is autistic. His mom, jean, says being in the pool is a relaxing environment where her son thrives.

“When they’re little and you get a diagnosis that they’re going to be a special needs child, you just have no idea where that could lead, and to watch him be successful it’s an incredible feeling,” says Jean McHale.

Part of that success includes earning gold and 2 silver medals at the 2015 World Summer Games in Los Angeles. John was the only swimmer from South Dakota.

Now as he’s perfecting his flip turns, dives and strokes- the goal is clear for the USA Games.

“To get a gold medal,” says John McHale.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling to watch your child be so successful, and something they have worked so hard for and enjoyed for so long,” says Jean McHale.

69 athletes, unified partners and coaches are representing South Dakota at the USA Games. They’re taking place this July in Seattle.

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