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Years of hard work will come to fruition this week for Roy Paynter.
The 21-year-old swimmer from Clinton is the lone P.E.I. athlete on Team Canada at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi. The Games officially began Thursday and conclude on March 21.
“It’s still a shocker (to be named to Team Canada),” Paynter told the Journal Pioneer in a recent interview before a sendoff rally at Credit Union Place in Summerside .”It’s still a big deal, I’m excited, I’m nervous and don’t know what to expect. . . I’m going to give it my all.”
Due to the hot temperatures in Abu Dhabi in the summer, the World Games have been moved to March. This resulted in a tighter time frame for athletes, who earned their positions with Team Canada at the Special Olympics Canada National Summer Games in Antigonish, N.S., in early August 2018. There, Paynter won six medals.
“He had a fantastic showing at the Antigonish National Games,” said Special Olympics P.E.I. executive director Charity Sheehan. “He’s been swimming for a number of years, and has kept at it.
“He won lots of medals. That all goes into a point system and he came out on top in his age group when they got the quota from the World Games folks to select the team for Abu Dhabi. He earned it for sure.”
Paynter’s first of four events at the World Games was the 4x50-metre medley relay on Wednesday evening. The team posted a time of 2:32.91.
“It’s outstanding, I will be representing Canada and P.E.I.,” said Paynter. “(Being a member of) Team Canada is also representing where you are from. I will also be representing Team P.E.I. and Kensington all at once.”
Paynter has lots of family support in the stands in Abu Dhabi. His parents, Brian and Sarah, along with his brother, Gary, will be cheering him on.
“It will be nice to have that support,” added Paynter, who is no stranger to the water.
“He started in competitive swimming with the (Summerside) Dolphins, and he was five-years-old at that time,” said Sarah, who is also his coach with Special Olympics P.E.I. “Then, when he was 12, we put him in Special Olympics after he was diagnosed with Autism.
“Being a swimmer myself, he’s been in the water since he’s been six-months-old. He has developed over time of growing up, getting stronger.”
Sarah noted that Roy’s preparation for the World Games included swimming five or six times a week for an hour each session. He also attended a Team Canada training camp in Toronto in October, and the swim team gathered in Calgary at the end of January.
“It’s just him against his time and the other athletes in the pool,” said Sheehan. “Since Roy is such a fantastic swimmer he tends to get into the top divisions, so he has had tons of competition the last number of years.”
Sheehan said Paynter’s story of being selected for Team Canada is a great example for everyone.
“For Special Olympics on P.E.I., it shows it is attainable,” said Sheehan. “He’s a role model to our younger athletes and some parents may think that is not even possible for their son or daughter, and here’s Roy going to Abu Dhabi.”