Aly White can recall when she first arrived in Canada at five years old. She wasn’t just afraid of swimming, she didn’t even want to wash her hands. “I was petrified.”
The stressful condition had a lot to do with the orphanage she came from, says adopted mom Ingrid White of Saanich.
Now 27, Aly has long overcome any fears she ever had with water and has blossomed as an accomplished swimmer, thanks to the opportunities made available through the Special Olympics.
The freedom of the water gives Aly a break from the symptoms of ADHD, as she finds clarity and a better state of mind.
“I would be in the pool 24-7 if I could,” Aly says.
“It’s a huge difference,” Ingrid says of seeing how far her daughter has come.
White hauled in eight medals (three golds, four silvers and a bronze) at the recent Special Olympics division of the B.C. Summer Games in Nanaimo. It was a surprise despite winning three medals at last year’s B.C. Special Olympics in Abbotsford, her first provincial meet.
In Nanaimo, White won gold in the 50m freestyle, 100m individual medley, and 50m butterfly, silver in the 200m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke and 50m breaststroke, and bronze in the 50m backstroke.
“I was not expecting eight medals,” Aly says. “Even though I was sitting in (medal) spots for the swims we had to wait all day for the final results, just in case (someone) was disqualified, which does happen.”
In fact, it happened to Aly, as she might have won a ninth medal but she pulled her arms too low during the breaststroke.
“The officials are very precise,” Ingrid says.
Aly is busy working as a leader at youth summer camps with the Emmanuel Baptist Church at Cedar Hill Cross and Henderson roads, and is back training often with the Special Olympics at Crystal Pool.
“It’s important that my coach Sara Ozog was so hardcore. She pushed me, and I think that’s what some special athletes need, is to be pushed a little more,” Aly says.
Judging from Aly’s breakout in the water in the last 12 months, she’s the one doing the pushing.
Back in February, White outdid everyone, swimming 162 laps (25 metres each) in an hour and 20 minutes during the Special Olympics fundraiser at Crystal Pool.
“It was all the time we had and I was just getting going,” Aly jokes.
The long distance effort earned her notice from Susan Simmons, the local marathon swimmer who conquered the 34-km length of Cowichan Lake with swimming partner Alex Cape.
Simmons has since come on as another coach for Aly, and she is planning to join Simmons and Cape for a five-km leg of the duo’s Cowichan Lake double attempt on Aug. 22, a 70-km swim that will last overnight Aug. 22 and 23.