Special Olympics swimmer, born with Down syndrome and without fear

Andy Miyares was born with Down syndrome. His mother was told his life would be full of limitations. When Andy was a baby, he lacked muscle tone and couldn’t hold his head up, but 28 years later, he has won more than 800 medals and has broken 24 world records as a Special Olympics swimmer.

His mother, Ana Maria Miyares, enrolled him in swimming lessons at Swim Gym in Coral Gables, Fl when he was just 9-months-old, and since then, the pool became Andy’s oasis. At 6-years-old, he was already competing.

Sometimes she would worry for her little boy who looked only 4 when he was 6. However, Andy seems to also have been born without fear. She recalls how he used to look so courageous standing next to the other swimmers since such a young age.

She remembers one day in particular when they were at practice, and he said, “Mommy, I will follow the best swimmer and I will try and pass him.”

And she says that’s pretty much what he’s done always.

“He decides to follow and improve, improve, improve,” says Mrs. Miyares. “That’s all he’s ever done. He never says no to a challenge.”

Until this day, Andy says he trains at least two hours a day, sometimes more, averaging 20 hours per week.

“I swim with normal kids everyday,” he says. “It makes me feel good.”

Special Olympics swimmer, born with Down syndrome and without fear AndyMiyares2 300x176 people NBC Latino News

Luis Salazar, his current coach for the last five years, has more than 20 years of experience working with special needs swimmers in his native Colombia.

He says that he has seen the drastic difference of children with Down syndrome who don’t do sports – both in their character and physical appearance. Currently, his team the Flying Fish consists of 120 swimmers. Six of them are special needs, but they all train together.

“Andy pushes the others by motivating them,” says Salazar. “He unites the group, because they all love him. He transmits a lot of love and is an example for all of us.”

This Sunday, Andy leaves for Panama to compete in the Central American and Caribbean Games – a competition uniting 30 Latin American countries competing for the Special Olympics in Los Angeles in 2015.

Salazar says that witnessing Andy’s determination has changed his life.

“I thought there were limits, but when you meet Andy, you see that there aren’t any,” he says. “He doesn’t have limits. He always wants to be better.”

Andy says that swimming has given him a feeling of acceptance, discipline in training, and confidence.

Last year, he became one of just two U.S. International Global Messengers for the Special Olympics, out of 12 in the world. He says in this way he can spread the word of the Special Olympics all over the entire world.

Because of the Special Olympics, Andy has traveled the world to cities such as Athens, Shanghai and Casablanca, but he says his dream is to really just have a normal life and get married.

“I have a girlfriend and I know her since I was in high school…12 years ago,” says Andy. “I gave her an engagement ring this year. And now, next year, 2013, I will be getting married to her. I want to be just like my brothers – getting married.”

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