Danny Chan plans to swim his way to some gold medals at the Special Olympics in Quebec in August.
The West End resident, along with other athletes in Team Manitoba, is flying to Sherbrooke, Que. from Aug. 1 to 10 to swim competitively.
Chan said he’s excited to go to Quebec.
"I’m trying to win first place," he said enthusiastically.
It sounds like a huge feat for the 21-year-old swimmer, but he has quite the track record. Danny joined Special Olympics Manitoba in 2001, and has won 17 gold medals, 11 silver medals, and eight bronze medals from the Provincial Games and Canada Summer Games throughout those years.
Chan has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The disorder, according to Autism Canada, is a neurological condition which makes it hard to communicate. People with autism also tend to repeat certain types of behaviour and have difficulty interacting with people.
But one person who knows how to interact with Chan is his longtime coach, Gordon Stewart.
"Being autistic, he sometimes needs me to have to repeat instructions to him so he understands clearly. It’s up to the coach to understand the athlete," Stewart said. "Making sure, as a coach, that the athletes clearly understand what is expected of them and not blaming them."
Stewart and Chan have worked together for about seven years.
"He gives me lots of laughs. He is probably one of the more elite athletes in Manitoba in Special Olympics," Stewart said.
"He’s got endurance and he’s got the speed."
Based on the Special Olympics rules, Chan — as well as other Special Olympics athletes — is allowed to compete in five races.
"The first day, Danny will be doing the 50-metre breaststroke and 100-metre freestyle. And then day three, he’s doing 100-metre backstroke. Day four, he’ll be doing the 50-metre backstroke. Day five will be the 50-metre freestyle," Stewart outlined.
But Stewart knows Chan is up to the challenge.
"Danny sometimes says he’s working too hard, but that doesn’t last long," Stewart laughed.
"I do work them hard," Stewart said about his athletes. "I always tell them, ‘Leave it all in the pool. Make sure you give it your 100% and you come back and say ‘I tried my best.’"
"He’s the best," Chan said about Stewart. "He cares about the athletes. Trains us well."
Stewart’s dream for Danny is that he does not stop swimming.
"He’s still 21-years-old, so he’s got a few more years to compete in the Special Olympics," Stewart said. "I’m hoping Danny will get on the national team and have a chance to travel and go to the World Games."