New Brunswick

Hard work of Special Olympics gold medallist leads to new title and new skills

 A gold-medal swimmer from Durham Bridge has been named male athlete of the year by Special Olympics Canada.

Jesse Canney will receive award for male athlete of the year in Toronto on Nov. 14

At the UNB pool in Fredericton, from left, are Special Olympics coach Carla Dueck, swimmer Jesse Canney, his mother, Pam Moxon, and Fredericton Aquanauts Swim Team coach Marta Belsh. (Philip Drost/CBC)

Three-time gold medallist Jesse Canney can thank his hard work and determination for getting him to the top — but also for helping him develop new skills.

"Before, he wouldn't say anything, and now he's sort of broken through the communication barriers," said his mother, Pam Moxon.

"He initiates conversations and it's really hard for him … he doesn't always have the ability to form sentences. So he's really overcome a lot."

Canney, who's from Durham Bridge, has near-nonverbal autism. Earlier this week, it was announced that the 23-year-old  was named male athlete of the year by Special Olympics Canada.

Canney won three gold medals and one silver at the Special Olympics World Games in March. (Jesse Canney/Facebook)

"I was really surprised," Moxon said. "I knew he had been nominated, but winning is a whole different thing."

In March, Canney won three gold medals and one silver in swimming at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.

Canney started taking private swimming lessons when he was seven. Four years later, he joined Special Olympics.

Coach Dueck, left, Canney and Moxon at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi. (Submitted by Pam Moxon)

"His Special Olympics coach thought, 'Wow, he could develop into a competitive swimmer,'" Moxon said.

And now, he's done just that — but Canney's still humble.

"He's happy. He just smiles when you mention it," said Moxon. 

Aside from swimming, Canney also enjoys basketball, track and field and bowling. He has even taken up playing tennis. 

Canney, of Durham Bridge, has been taking swimming lessons since he was seven. (Jesse Canney/Facebook)

"It's been amazing," Moxon said. "We never dreamed he'd excel like this."

Canney will be receiving his award on Nov. 14 in Toronto.

With files from Shift New Brunswick


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.