Eleebana champion takes out first gold of Olympics

ELEEBANA swimming champion Megan Nay, 10, kicked off the Special Olympics Junior National Games in style, winning the first gold medal of the competition.

Competing in the 25-metre backstroke , Megan, who according to her mother could swim before she walked, dominated in the pool last Saturday.

Before her win, Megan told The Star she was looking forward to the games and her race.

Megan's outstanding achievement was not alone, as more than 200 children from across Australia came to Newcastle to compete in the four-day Special Olympics Junior National Games.

Twenty-six athletes from the Hunter walked away with medals.

The games were an opportunity for children between the ages of eight and 16 with an intellectual disability to compete at a professional level - and meet new friends.

The games kicked off last Thursday, December 6, with the athletes piling into the University of Newcastle, which was transformed into the athletes village.

Athletes spent Friday at final training sessions and participating in the Healthy Athletes Program, where each child underwent health checks and screenings on their eyes, feet and teeth.

As the weekend progressed, athletes competed in a range of individual and team-based sports, from swimming to cricket, basketball and tennis.

The closing ceremony on Sunday, December 9, ended on a high note with the "Flame of Hope" extinguished in front of 1100 people at Newcastle Basketball Stadium.

Games co-ordinator Sally Hill said the weekend was "brilliant" and full of "champion moments".

"Athletes broke personal bests and the team spirit was just incredible," she said.

Mrs Hill also paid tribute to the 350 volunteers and carers who contributed to the success of the games.

Volunteer Leah Farrell, from Blackhill, said she spent the last three months volunteering to ensure the games would run smoothly.

She said all the hard work from volunteers had paid off as soon as the athletes arrived and excitement for the games intensified.

"From day one it has been an amazing journey," she said.

"I jumped at the chance to help out and I would love to get back on board with the Asia Pacific Games next year."

LOVING CARE: Volunteer Leah Farrell, from Blackhill, and swimmer Megan Nay, 10, from Eleebana, on day one of the Special Olympics Junior National Games.

LOVING CARE: Volunteer Leah Farrell, from Blackhill, and swimmer Megan Nay, 10, from Eleebana, on day one of the Special Olympics Junior National Games.

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