Liam Bartley did not let the nerves get to him before the biggest swimming event of his life.
Bartley (21), of Maheno, came away with a medal in all three events he entered at the Special Olympics World Summer Games, held in the United Arab Emirates.
In his first competition overseas, Bartley, who has autism, won gold in the 50m butterfly in 40.83sec, silver in the butterfly leg of the medley relay and bronze in the 100m freestyle relay with a time of 1min 17sec.
Bartley, the only South Island-based swimmer in the New Zealand team, set personal-best times in both individual events he entered.
The New Zealand team spent three weeks based in Abu Dhabi, as part of a community engagement programme, then travelled to Dubai to compete.
He said travelling to the United Arab Emirates was an interesting experience, and he had made some new friends on the trip.
The team had also managed to check out some of the local attractions such as the Grand Mosque and Ferrari World, an amusement park that was a personal highlight for Bartley.
Bartley’s mother and co-coach, Sharon Bartley, said the medals were a deserved reward for all of her son’s hard work.
“He has been training five nights a week, so it has been pretty full-on over the last few months,” she said.
“We have had a lot of support from the community, and we would both like to thank everyone for their help.”