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Swimmer Pan Pacific bound

A longtime competitive swimmer from Penticton has been selected to compete in the Pan Pacific Games, a premier international swim meet for para-swimmers this year.

To date, Andrew Cooke, 22,  has competed in six Can-American games, one Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico and Olympic trials for London 2012, where he silver medaled.

Having earned a spot on the 2014 Pan-Pacific Games team, Cooke will travel to the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena, Calif.,  for the Aug. 6 to 10 competitions.

"I am very excited," said Cooke, as he prepared to swim laps at the Penticton Community Centre this week. "I am training six days a week, between one and one and a half hours to get ready for Pasadena in August."

Cooke is in his 12th year of swimming at the community centre.

He took up the sport, he said, because it helps him build strength and coordination.

"I started because I have cerebral palsy and swimming is good for that," he said.

All of his training is with the KISU Swimming Club, under the guidance of longtime coach Jane Bentley, who is also a lifeguard and instructor for the city. 

Bentley is responsible for founding the New Waves program, an aquatic therapy program for clients with complex care needs.

In Cooke's case, he is a S5 in para swimming. With 10 physical categories, that means he is halfway along, she said.

Cooke qualified for the Canadian team at the Can-American Games in March in Miami, Fla., where he swam two qualifying times: one in 100-metre freestyle and the other in 200-metre freestyle. He also won gold in the 200-metre individual medley, which was a Canadian record breaking swim.

The young swimmer has a goal of making the 2016 Rio Paralympic team and the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic team. Being nominated to the Canadian team for the Pan Pacific Games is a step closer to qualifying for the Paralympics.

Bentley is not surprised the dedicated swimmer is heading to the Pan Pacific Games.

"I had expectations he'd make it," she said. "He dropped 14 seconds, which means a lot in swimming."

As for Cooke,  who likes freestyle the best, there is no place he would rather be than in the water.

"It feels amazing, a whole new world for me," he said.





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