Jackie Lieuwen photo                                Jess Hansen practices his swimming at the Sandman Inn pool, where he’s been training since January thanks to agreement with general manager Richard Budden. Prior to that he was heading to Kitimat every week.

Jackie Lieuwen photo Jess Hansen practices his swimming at the Sandman Inn pool, where he’s been training since January thanks to agreement with general manager Richard Budden. Prior to that he was heading to Kitimat every week.

Terrace swimmer training for Special Olympic nationals

Jess Hansen is heading to Nova Scotia this fall for the Special Olympic Canada Summer Games

A Special Olympic swimmer from Terrace is practicing his strokes at the Sandman Inn as he treads his way toward the Special Olympic Canada Summer Games in Nova Scotia this fall.

Jess Hansen, 40, has been swimming since he was 18, and competing in a whole host of sports for close to 15 years.

He competed in regionals in 2016 and advanced to provincials in Kamloops last year. There, he qualified for nationals with one gold, one silver and two other top-five finishes.

He got first in the 25-metre backstroke with a time of 49.03 and second in the 50-metre freestyle with a time of 1:49.66.

He also got fourth in 50 metre backstroke and fifth in the 25-metre freestyle.

Ruth Caouette, swimming coach for the B.C. Special Olympics Terrace local, says Hansen’s success is largely due to his dedication.

“Just the length of time that he has spent swimming… his sense of commitment,” she said.

“He shows up every week for practices… he’s always there.”

He also competes in the bowling and curling programs with the same devotion, and he’s in good physical condition, said Caouette who often jumps in the pool to give Hansen a competitor in the water.

Chris Dale, who is program coordinator of the local Special Olympics, agreed, noting that Hansen works a lot at Ridge Wind Farms in Thornhill.

“[Hansen is] very fit, lots of stamina. He works on a farm actually, so that makes him fairly strong,” said Dale.

And for Hansen, it’s the exercise and social aspect of the sports that draws him.

“I like to meet new people, meet different athletes,” he said. “(And) I like to keep working, keep active.”

That was why he joined swimming in the first place 22 years ago, along with his friend Silas Clayton.

Hansen’s training this past year has been somewhat scattered due to the year-long closure of the Terrace Aquatic Centre, which closed last March and isn’t scheduled to reopen until this coming May.

Volunteer coaches were taking groups to Kitimat on Saturdays last spring and summer, but that mostly stopped when winter hit due to road conditions. Fortunately, a Special Olympics official made an arrangement in November with Sandman Inn general manager Richard Budden for Hansen to train in the pool there.

So since January, he’s been doing his strokes there three times, and also spent a week training down south with Team BC.

The provincial team includes 49 swimmers, and Hansen said he enjoyed the training and connected with two other swimmers on the team.

“They’re horse riders like me,” he said, adding that one is from Kamloops and one from Vernon.

He feels both nervous and excited looking forward to nationals, he said, which is scheduled for July 31 to August 4 in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

Hansen’s mom Sheila Bradford says she is proud of her son for who he is.

“Jess is an inspiration to a lot of people,” she said. “When he was young, it was always said by professionals that he wouldn’t, he couldn’t, he shouldn’t. And now he’s able to do all these things because he kept trying and never gave up, and he still doesn’t give up,” she said.