Community story – a family affair

Crystal Pool has become an important place for every member of my family. 

A few years ago my husband Vince began a journey of transformation from a sedentary and seriously overweight man with a number of family history of health issues to a fit triathlete. He started running, making it only one block at first. Through a series of connections and circumstances he was introduced to triathlons and began participating in local races and got hooked. The team he trains with became a strong source of emotional support for him as he faced different challenges, even outside of sport. They swim at Crystal Pool and. 

On a training ride, he was hit by a car that turned left across the bike lane. His knees and shoulder were badly damaged with complex fractures going undetected until after they had fused. This caused chronic pain and permanent joint impairment. It impacted his swimming most of all, and Crystal Pool was again the home for much of the work to recover as he adapted and regained his competitive edge. This past season he qualified for a spot at the 2020 ITU Multisport World Championships.

Our son Eli is 11 and aspires to follow (and someday overtake) his dad in competitive triathlon. The Crystal Pool facility is home to his youth triathlon club where they train both in and out of the pool.

Our daughter Trinity is 13 and loved the water from a very young age. She has a chromosome disorder which results in reduced stamina and coordination, along with learning disabilities and social challenges. She struggled to develop the necessary skills to be safe in the water. In standard group swim lessons, she became lost in the play and activity around the pool; individual lessons were costly and hard to coordinate.

A number of parents of young Special Olympics athletes we knew had had similar challenges. A little over 2 years ago, the Special Olympics swim team based out of Crystal Pool began a pilot program for young athletes to the water. We jumped at the opportunity and found it was a great environment for Trinity both learn and make friends. Alongside others with a diverse range of challenges and even more diverse skill levels, she received coaching tailored to her abilities and specific gaps. More importantly, she felt emotionally safe to be herself.

When Trin started, she could swim as far as she could hold her breath under the water, and then needed to stand up for air. By the end of that first season, she was able to swim a length of the pool in the deep end.

For her first two years with Special Olympics, I accompanied Trin in the pool. The volunteer coaches showed her a swim drill and then she and I worked on it together. I’d taken enough Red Cross lessons as a kid to get from one end of the pool to the other, but not with any proper form or style. I also picked up a few tips and found myself a little stronger with each lesson as well. 

Last spring when the club’s season ended, Trin was concerned about losing all she’ had learned so we made a deal – I would take her to Crystal Pool once a week, and she would come to the lake and work on her anxiety at the beach and try getting into the lake. Once again, the connections made at Crystal Pool with her Special Olympics family were instrumental in helping her overcome challenges. A group of her teammates met at the lake through the off season for open water training. They took time to encourage Trin to try new things and test her limits. She has gone from staying high and dry on the beach in June, to swimming alongside the boat to the island in the middle of the lake at the end of summer. She has made amazing strides, all anchored at Crystal Pool. 

Along the way I discovered open water swimming for myself and how helpful it is for my own mental health. I have type II bipolar disorder and I find that regular longer swims help lessen both the frequency and intensity of my symptoms. I have recently set myself a goal of swimming the 1.5k distance at next July’s Thetis Lake Swim for MS and will be training at Crystal Pool.

Our daughter Trinity recently shared that Crystal Pool is one of the only places where she feels included. I worry about what will happen to Trinity, Eli, Vince and myself if the pool is not replaced as previously planned. You can view Trinity’s interview with CTV Vancouver Island and read the in the story here.

Crystal Pool is an important facility to every member of my family for so many varied reasons with health and wellness at the core. Steps must be taken to ensure it is replaced with a suitable facility. Y

Carol Geisler