Smilley tops in open water

Special Olympics swimmer Andrew Smilley has notched another amazing milestone in his young life by topping an online poll for braving the cold and placing highly in an open water swim last year in San Francisco.

Among an extraordinarily impressive field of outstanding open water swimming heroes, the San Francisco Bay swim of Smilley just out-voted the world record setting relay team of Camlough, Ireland as the 2009 Greatest Open Water Swim of the Year.

Out of 9,133 votes cast by fans around the globe, 2,086 individuals voted for Andrew and 2,003 voted for the Camlough team.

Cayman’s Smilley, 19, placed 107th in a field of 800 swimmers in the RCP Tiburon Mile where the Special Olympics ace also placed third in the 19-29 age in the non-wetsuit division in the San Francisco Bay in his first ever cold-water experience.

Special Olympics CEO and Chairman Tim Shriver said: “Far too often, our athletes, athletes with intellectual disabilities, are viewed for what they can’t do. But Andrew Smilley is showing the world what he can do and we congratulate his effort for being selected as the Greatest Open Water Swim of 2009.

‘Andrew’s performance in the RCP Tiburon Mile is just one example of how Special Olympics athletes are accomplishing great things that many just dream to achieve.”

‘The results of this poll demonstrate that persons all over the world were motivated by his achievement,’ said SOCI chairman Eric Crutchley. ‘Andrew’s dedication to training and his continuous striving to do his best despite the challenges is an inspiration to us all.’

‘We have always been very proud of him – now the world knows why,’ said his coach Penny McDowall with pride.

When contacted with the news Andrew was very pleased that so many people had voted for him but he continues to focus on getting even better at his sport. ‘They really voted for me? Wow, cool… What time is swim training tomorrow?’