Accomplished athlete a fierce competitor and leader in swim clubs

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For 25-year-old Robbie Miles, the swimming pool is an equalizer.

When his parents, Bob and Lorraine Miles, enrolled him in Calgary’s Learn to Swim program, the program was reluctant to take him.

They weren’t sure how well a child born with Down syndrome would keep up to and fit in with other children. But they agreed to let him try.

“He was one of the first handicapped children to be involved in the program,” Bob says.

Robbie learned quickly though, hastily evaporating any doubt that he belonged.

Robbie largeRobbie Miles will be taking part in his fifth provincial competition as a member of the Special Olympics program later this month in Red Deer.

Photo by Dan Mackenzie

This month he will be competing in his fifth provincial competition as a member of the Special Olympics program — one he joined 13 years ago in 2000.

He rockets from one end of the Inglewood Aquatic Centre’s pool to the other during his Wednesday evening practice sessions.

When he is not in the water, his distinctive bullfrog bellow booms over the pool, encouraging his teammates.

At the national Special Olympics competition in London, Ontario in 2010, Robbie carried away a total of six medals. He is also a leader on a swim club, with other talented swimmers.

“We have some excellent swimmers, some who could swim for generic swim clubs,” says Bob, who joined the club as a coach in 2001. “That’s how good they are.”

The coaches are competitive swimmers and lifeguards, who take their athletes very seriously, building success by getting into the water and showing their students how to race.

“Having those competitive swimmers working with them makes a world of difference,” Bob says.

In the spotlight, Robbie is shy, giving one-word answers to questions. But in the pool, he is free, a cruising torpedo, ready to give anyone a run for their money — no matter who they are.

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