EARNING a place in the Australian team to contest the Special Olympics World Games will be the next goal for Taree swimmer Mitch Hoppe.
The 26-year-old has qualified to contest three events at the Special Olympics Australian National Games to be held in Adelaide from April 16 to 20.
Mitch is the Manning River Times-Iguana Sportstar of the Week and he pockets a $50 open order from Iguana for his efforts.
The nationals will be the final selection trial for the world games to be held at Abu Dhabi in 2019.
Mitch won one gold and two silver medals at the Special Olympics event held at Cessnock earlier this month to earn his berth at Adelaide. He won the 50 metre breastroke and was second in the 50m backstroke and the 100m freestyle.
Mitch understands he faces a tough challenge to make the Australian side. He thinks his best chance will be in the breastroke, although he has posted improving times in the backstroke and the 100m free.
Mitch contested the final trials for the world games four years ago in Melbourne, so he has some idea of what to expect in Adelaide.
He was previously coached by Jeremy Wardrop at the Manning Aquatic and Leisure Centre, however, his former mentor has now left the area. Mitch is still getting some specialised training at the MALC on Monday evenings, but as his dad, Ian, explained, he has a busy schedule.
“He trains on Mondays and then he has club nights on Wednesdays with the (Taree Torpedoes) swimming club,’’ Ian said.
“Then he has water polo while he also goes to training with the Taree City Bulls.’’
But while winning gold medals is a bonus, Ian said Mitch enjoys the social side of the sport – the camaraderie among his follow swimmers and the chance to meet more people.
“That’s what he like about water polo as well,’’ Ian said.
Mitch started competitive swimming around five years ago and he is now a regular at events run under the Special Olympics banner.
Swimming, water polo and rugby league are his passions.
He is a devoted supporter of the Taree City Bulls in the Group Three Rugby League competition and attends most of their matches. He’s there in time to watch all four grades.
“The Bulls have been sensational with him,’’ Ian said.
However, making the team to swim at Adelaide will have a downside.
Mitch now sports a healthy looking beard, but he’s been told he’ll have to lose that before he plunges into the water at the nationals.
“I don’t think Mitch’s too keen about it, but it’s a sacrifice he’ll have to make,’’ his dad smiled.