Long-distance swimmer Meliah Motchman snacks on watermelon during a brief break from her five-kilometre swim around Thetis Lake on Monday. The 27-year-old may be the first Canadian with down syndrome to complete a swim of that distance. (Submitted/Susan Simmons)

Victoria swimmer with down syndrome completes 5-kilometre Thetis Lake swim

Victoria woman swims for four hours straight in cold water

Meliah Motchman is fearless.

The long distance Victoria swimmer, 27, swam for four hours straight in Thetis Lake on Monday, completing a five-kilometre goal she made last winter with coach Susan Simmons.

READ ALSO: Tackling ‘one fear after another:’ ‘Spirit Orca’ swimmers ready for next challenge

Motchman has down syndrome and might be the first Canadian living with the condition to complete an open water swim of that distance – the Special Olympics World Games open water swim is only 1.5 kilometres.

“Swimming makes me healthy and fit,” Motchman said. “I feel proud of myself, it’s amazing. Next summer I want to do the Sunshine Coast.”

Motchman has been training in the pool, lake and ocean. She says cold water – as low as 12 degrees – and waves two to three feet high don’t scare her at all.

“I’ve been swimming in lakes all my life. I have to be brave a lot, I’m no chicken,” she said.

Motchman swam three laps around Thetis Lake and an additional 500 metres, with breaks every thirty minutes for a drink and snack, all while treading water, never touching the boat or ground.

Simmons had a kickboard and paddled alongside her, encouraging her by posting updates to Facebook and reading supportive comments out loud.

READ ALSO: Victoria speakers gather for inspirational conference

Simmons, known for swimming incredible distances in B.C.’s open water while battling Multiple Sclerosis, coaches a number of swimmers with different developmental abilities. She says Motchman’s achievement on Monday is an step forward for all her swimmers.

“I think people with disabilities are often told, ‘you can’t’ so they don’t believe they can, and other people don’t believe they can,” she said. “It’s become very important to me to dispel the myth…for Meliah to choose a goal like that and achieve it and show that someone with down syndrome can do this, is amazing.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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