As you watch Andrea Kontras glide through the water, it is apparent she is in her element. With every turn and stroke, she gains strength and momentum while swimming at the Westerville Community Center.
“My body feels better in the water, my passion is swimming,” said Andrea, 36, a Special Olympics Swimmer.
Andrea has been in the pool more than 25 years, most of it training competitively. She reached the pinnacle of her swimming career this past summer, becoming the first person from Westerville to go to the Special Olympics USA Games for swimming.
Andrea was chosen to represent Ohio after her stellar performance at the 2012 Ohio Special Olympics, where she won two gold medals.
“I was so excited to go to nationals. I even had a countdown going,” she said.
During the USA Games last June in Princeton, New Jersey, Andrea took home medals in four swimming events: Silver in the 100-yard Freestyle and the 4X25-yard Medley Relay and Bronze in the 50-yard Backstroke and 50-yard Freestyle.
Andrea’s face lit up when she talked about the whole national experience. “It was so much fun and the medals are awesome. I feel proud that all the hard-work paid off,” she said.
Her coaches are extremely proud of her as well.
“This was such an amazing opportunity for Andrea. She got to practice at a higher level and work with different coaches in a new environment. We couldn’t be happier for her,” said Special Olympics Coach Lauren Jennings.
Since the big games, Andrea has been full speed ahead at practice. Her next competition is just around the corner, on November 1 for the Regional Aquatics Qualifier in Upper Arlington.
“Nationals really gave her confidence. Andrea came back with extra determination and focus; and she is faster now,” said Coach Jennings.
Andrea has always been tenacious about swimming. When she was just 10-years-old she wanted to try out for the Hilliard Special Olympics Swim Team.
“You had to swim from one end of the pool to the other without touching the wall. During the competition they put me in an end lane,” she said. “I nearly drowned, doggie-paddling and everything. But I finished and got fourth place.”
From that moment on, Andrea began to develop her love for swimming. She started competing in many kinds of races, although her favorite events are the Freestyle and the Backstroke. She even set a personal record at nationals at 2:17 for the 100-yard Freestyle.
“When I’m swimming fast, I feel like fish. It keeps me strong, healthy and active,” she said.
Andrea has put in some serious hours at the Community Center over last few months with both Parks and Recreation staff and her Special Olympics team supporting her along the way.
“Her dedication to the sport has been inspiring, and other swimmers have taken notice of Andrea in the lap pool. It is great to see all her training pay off,” said Westerville Parks and Recreation Facilities Supervisor J.R. Fourqurean.
“I really like swimming here. I was getting in 1800 meters a week over the summer,” said Andrea.
Her dreams haven’t stopped with nationals either. The next stop: the July 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.
There is no doubt with her spirit, Andrea could go global. We wish you the best of luck in your future competitions Andrea!
For more information on Westerville Special Olympics, visit westervillespecialolympics.org