Being different never kept Andy Miyares out of the pool; in fact, it's what brought him to it.
Miyares was born with Down syndrome. At a very young age, his mother Ana noticed he struggled with muscle control. The pool, she thought, would be a great environment for him to strengthen his body and gain more control. She started Andy off in the water at nine months; he progressed to competitive swimming by the age of six.
Since then, Andy's swimming career has brought him to Special Olympics and competitions around the world. He has had experiences his mother could have never imagined when she first put him in the water.
More: The Benefits of Swimming
His first swim meet at age six gave Ana a view of how swimming had already begun to change her son. Not only had he gained the strength and control she had hoped for, but something more. "I saw him on the block for the first time beside all able-bodied swimmers with the confidence he still has," she says. Ana knew then that water was where Andy belonged.
That first year of competitive swimming gave Andy great confidence, but also began to show his character and drive. That drive first brought Andy to Special Olympics at the age of eight. The training, competition and camaraderie Special Olympics offers its athletes proved to be a perfect fit for Andy. After being involved with Special Olympics for 21 years, Andy says the program is his life, and his mother agrees, as it has become their family's life too.
Andy started challenging himself in competitive swimming right away with his favorite stroke, the butterfly. As any swimmer knows, butterfly is a truly challenging stroke; just watching someone else do it can be tiring.
More: Keep the Rhythm for a Smoother Butterfly
Ana says Andy mastered the stroke at six years old. Thanks to his brother, who was a flier, it's always been his favorite. "He always wants to be like his brothers and do everything like them," Ana says. Not just following in his brother's footsteps, but surpassing them, Andy became a world record holder in the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly with the Down Syndrome International Swimming Organisation.
Searching for a new challenge, Andy recently set his eyes toward open-water competition, a race that presented challenges for his parents, too. "The day he told us he was swimming the Tiburon mile all I could think about was all the sharks in that area," Ana says.
Andy's confidence was unwavering; he excelled in the race and was ranked among the top 10 by U.S. Masters Swimming in the mile. Andy is the only swimmer with an intellectual disability to ever be ranked in a top 10 by the U.S. Masters.
More: Special Olympics Athletes Dive Into Open-Water Swimming