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Calgary swimmer set to head to Germany for Special Olympics World Games

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Abby Wilson is a fierce competitor in the pool but was talking to her mom about retiring from swimming.

After the conversation, she realized she would miss the camaraderie with her teammates and all the other athletes she meets at international competitions.

The 30-year-old has represented Canada at Special Olympics events for 18 years.

Now, she's training for the World Games hosted in Berlin.

Wilson leaves June 10 for Toronto, where she'll meet up with the Canadian team, and then it's on to Munich, followed by a bus ride to Berlin.

"I'm excited because it's my passion and I've been working on swimming for a long time," said Wilson.

"I'm going really fast and my speed is doing well, my stamina is working well and I'm working really hard on these."

Wilson is coached in Calgary four days a week in the pool by Joan Gunn-Allard.

The other three days, she works with a personal trainer to build muscle.

"Makes you strong and makes you powerful," said Wilson.

"I train in the water with coach Joan and I will pump her up because she's my favourite coach."

Gunn-Allard says Wilson is keen to learn and improve her technique.

"For the Special Olympics world swim championship in Germany, she's swimming butterfly, breaststroke and freestyle," said Gunn-Allard.

"So I've been primarily concentrating on those three strokes."

Gunn-Allard gets into the water with Wilson in the lap pool and will remind her to keep her chin down or kick harder with her legs.

"We do distance one day, we do medium distance another day, we do sprints. We do lots of sprints because it's really good for the lungs. It develops the lungs and gives her good swimming power," she said.

Gunn-Allard won't make the trip to Germany but is confident Wilson will be ready.

"When I coach her, I don't coach her to win. I coach her to do her best and to have fun," she said.

"What is really exciting is that she does personal best times. In Portugal, she swam the 200-metre breaststroke, which is eight lengths of breaststroke. She took 30 seconds off of her best time and I was so proud of her."

Wilson's parents and sister will tag along to cheer on Team Canada in Berlin.

"She meets athletes from all over the country and all around the world and the confidence is great and the camaraderie and team spirit, it's wonderful to see," said Barb Wilson, Abby's mom.

Rod Wilson, Abby's dad, says he's looking forward to sampling some beer and bratwurst while in Germany and is looking forward to watching his daughter in the pool.

"She has the capacity to really focus in on goals," he said.

"She literally works hard day in, day out to accomplish them, so we're very proud of that characteristic in her."

You can learn more about the world games at https://www.specialolympics.org/our-work/games-and-competition/world-games/special-olympics-world-games-berlin-2023.

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