'It helps me come out of my shell': Manitoba Special Olympic swimmers win big at Canada Summer Games

Team Manitoba Special Olympic swimmers Samantha Currie and Quinlan Roberts have earned two gold medals, one silver and two bronzes between them in the Canada Summer Games.

Samantha Currie and Quinlan Roberts each hold one of Manitoba's five gold medals so far in the Games

Samantha Currie, left, and Quinlan Roberts, right, both made it to the podium for the Special Olympics women's 50-metre backstroke event in the Canada Summer Games on Thursday. Coach Melissa Diamond, centre, says the pair are a dynamic duo. (Submitted by Melissa Diamond)

Best friends outside of the pool, worst enemies in it.

That's how their coach describes Samantha Currie, 25, and Quinlan Roberts, 17. The pair of Special Olympics swimmers train together with Winnipeg's North End Seals and both are representing Manitoba in the Canada Summer Games.

"They're club teammates, they're provincial teammates, they push each other," said coach Melissa Diamond. "It's like, 'Which one of them is going to win the race this time,' because they're always neck-and-neck."

Each swimmer holds one of Manitoba's five gold medals so far in the Games, and both earned an additional medal on Thursday in the Special Olympics women's 50-metre backstroke event. Roberts won silver and Currie secured bronze.

Currie also won a bronze in the 100-metre backstroke race on Wednesday.

"For Sam, I'm just definitely proud of her," said Roberts. "She literally pushes me to be who I want to be, definitely, and vice-versa."

The two are also roommates in the athletes' village. Currie said she wouldn't have had it any other way.

"I think it's amazing that I can share those experiences with her and I'm very happy to have such an awesome roommate and teammate," she said.

This year is Roberts's first Canada Summer Games but Currie has competed in two other Games before.

"I feel like water is my element, and just being in the pool makes me feel happy," Currie said.

She said she's been swimming her whole life but started competing 13 years ago, when her mom signed her up for Special Olympics.

"That's when I started being on the [North End] Seals. I loved every second I was in that pool," she said.

Roberts has been swimming competitively for six years, she said.

"I just like the speed and momentum," she said. "I like the drive, definitely."

She qualified for the final heat in three of the four events she's competed in so far. When she's on the starting block, she said she focuses on getting through the lap and how far she's already come.

"Finals, there's one to eight. If you're in eighth place, you're the eighth ... fastest athlete in that heat, of all of Canada," she said.

'They're one, blended team'

The Canada Summer Games incorporates Special Olympics races into its regular schedule instead of holding a separate event.

Diamond said that makes the experience for Special Olympics athletes' even better.

"They're one, blended team," she said. "Just to see all of these youth come together and form one team — it kind of erases any of those barriers of … Special Olympics or not Special Olympics and just gives these kids a chance to be kids and swim on the team and make new friends, just like any other kid competing in Games."

Currie said her experiences at Canada Summer Games have boosted her confidence.

"It helps me come out of my shell," she said. "I used to be super shy before and now I get to, like, talk and chat with other teammates and make new friends from other provinces. That's what I love the most, is getting to know new people."

Currie and Roberts will both compete again in the 50-metre freestyle race at the Pan Am Pool on Friday at 10:30 a.m.