ENGLEFELD — An entire community came together to give its world-class swimmer a proper send off.
Tia Zimmerman is one of 20 swimmers on Team Canada competing at the Special Olympics World Games held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates from March 14 to March 21.
On Feb. 28, at Englefeld School, the gym was full as school officials, local politicians, the head of Special Olympics Saskatchewan and her swim coach wished Zimmerman good luck.
Zimmerman said she knew there’d be a send off for her, but she was nervous as she entered the room full of cheering people.
“It’s a lot, but it’s a good ‘a lot’,” she said, adding she was thankful for the event.
Royce Moellenbeck, the president of the student representative council said Zimmerman never brags about her accomplishments, only working harder to become more successful.
“Each student in the school feels inspired by how Tia has reached the goal of representing her country. This type of honor everyone only dreams about,” he said. “We're all so proud of you and wish the best of luck on you on your amazing journey.”
Darrell Athmer, Englefeld’s mayor, wished Zimmerman luck on behalf of his community.
“You've shown to everyone, especially your peers, what hard work, perseverance and dedication can achieve,” he said. “You're going to represent not only Canada but the Village of Englefeld.”
Zimmerman got into swimming four years ago, at the strong insistence of her parents. At first not liking the water, Zimmerman attended a few swim meets, becoming a better swimmer as time moved forward.
In July 2016, Zimmerman was an alternate for the Saskatchewan Summer Games in Estevan. She was called to compete.
Deb Stumborg, her swim coach, was at the competition.
“When she hit the wall on the last turn, she was in fourth place,” she said. “She finished that term and she kicked it into high gear, passing the swimmer in the next lane and she finished the race with bronze medal. Best race ever.”
It was at that point that Stumborg knew she could do it.
“I also realized maybe she wasn't practising hard enough,” she said, adding that she started developing more of those swim drills that Zimmerman wasn’t so fond of.
Zimmerman competed Special Olympics Saskatchewan Summer Games in Moose Jaw in 2017, earning a spot as an alternate to the national Special Olympics, held in Antigonish, NS, July 31 to Aug. 4, 2018. She won one gold, two silver and two bronze medals, earning a position to the world games outright.
Stumborg asked Zimmerman to keep a post-it-note with her as she competes in Abu Dhabi.
“The note says just for today I'm going to give 110 per cent and be proud of all I accomplished, but it's just for today, so you only have to focus on today. Then tomorrow when you read it, remember that it's just for today.”
Zimmerman said she thinks she’s ready to compete.
“She'll [the coach] have a little few more last minute training sessions, but yeah, for the most part, I'm ready.”