Australian Golden Girl Impresses on First Attempt
By Ralulimi Mukovhe and Manwadu Rofhiwa
Scholastic News Student Reporters
Global Youth Summit, South Africa
Suzanne O'Moore (right) and her coach Elisabeth Ewen at the Special Olympics World Games in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo: Michael Rasikhinya, South Africa)

Sunday, June 22—The center rumbled in cheers as everyone screamed and jumped for joy. Like her role model, Ian Thorpe, Australian athlete Suzanne O'Moore, 25, swiftly sliced through the water to win her preliminary race. The new Special Olympics 100 m freestyle sensation clocked a magnificent 1 minute 9 seconds—the fastest time in all the heats.

O'Moore never dreamed of representing her country as an athlete until 1989 when Special Olympics messengers arrived in her school. They came to Mount Maria Senior College to bring the good news of Special Olympics.

Although this is her first world championships, Suzanne was involved in gymnastics in Australia. She attributes her success and quality performance in aquatics to hard work.

Swimmers in the 100m freestyle take off. Australian athlete Suzanne O'Moore won the heat. (Photo: Michael Rasikhinya, South Africa)

"I worked very hard during training," she told Scholastic News Online student reporters. My training program started 12 months ago. I went to the pool four times a week and to the gym twice a week."

When she competes in the aquatics finals this week, she said she will focus on enjoying herself.

"I want to run my personal best time. A medal is not an ultimate goal, but if it comes, I will be very happy," she said.

O'Moore's coach, Elisabeth Ewen, 41, was quick to point out how the Wavell Heights Amateur Swimming Club in Australia helped Suzanne become a competitor. The club's facilities encourage everyone to compete and play together whether they are mentally challenged or not.

Scholastic News Student Reporters Ralulimi Mukovhe (left) and Manwadu Rofhiwa (right).

Suzanne and her coach encouraged people around the world to give every athlete an opportunity to participate in all the events and programs of the Special Olympics.

"Special Olympics changed my life completely," said O'Moore. "I now have courage, I believe in myself, I feel motivated, and I feel a greatness about myself. I just want to go out now and make some friends."