Adam Piersma’s six months of tough training paid off last month. Piersma, a member of Faith Christian Reformed Church in Burlington, Ontario, took home a gold and silver medal in swimming at Canada’s Summer Special Olympic Games held in Vancouver, British Columbia, from July 7-12, 2014.
Competing in four events, Piersma won gold in the 50-metre breaststroke, swimming the race in 59.75 seconds, five seconds faster than the second-place finish. He won silver in the 50-metre freestyle, finishing in 38.15 seconds.
Born with a congenital heart defect, Piersma had surgery when he was three months old and again at age 3. His parents were told to expect that he would need a heart transplant by age 16—but at 27 years old, his heart is still keeping up. While his heart operates at 50 percent, the condition doesn’t slow him down. Piersma also enjoys basketball, baseball, and skiing.
Piersma has been swimming since he was 6. He joined the Burlington Barracudas swim team, part of the Burlington Special Olympics program, when he was 17. He likes being part of the club, meeting new people, and helping others as a peer coach. Piersma’s favorite stroke is the freestyle, similar to the front crawl. He laughs as he divulges his least favorite stoke—the breaststroke—the event in which he won gold.
Piersma’s entire immediate family attended the games in support. “We had a lot of fun,” said Adam’s mother, Janet Piersma. His father, Pete, agreed, adding, “It takes a bit of commitment and can be easier not to make the effort, but it’s worth it.” Piersma was also encouraged by his extended family, congregation, and community. “All of Adam’s life, he has been blessed with such a wonderful support network,” said Janet Piersma.
Next year might include the World Games in Los Angeles, Calif. With his positive, laid-back personality, Piersma shrugged and said with a smile, “If I make it, I’ll go. If not, I don’t.” He added, “It was pretty fun. I’d do it all again.”