USA summer games being hosted June 14 – 21 in New Jersey
By John Burton
COLTS NECK – Monika Kalisz has some advice for others pursuing their dreams.
“It’s about finding something that you love and working at it – a lot,” she said. “They have to believe in themselves.”
The 18-year-old Colts Neck resident, who will be competing in the 2014 Special Olympics USA National Games next month, has found that swimming is one of the activities for which she has found a passion. Her love of the sport has led her to compete as a member of Team New Jersey during the June 14-21 USA games, being hosted by New Jersey, in Princeton and the greater Mercer County area.
Kalisz, who was born in Poland, is a senior at Colts Neck High School. She will be competing in the 100-meter breaststroke and the 100-meter individual medley, which requires her to swim the breaststroke, the butterfly, backstroke and freestyle, according to Monika’s mother, Margaret Kalisz.
Before participating in the USA Summer Olympics, Monika Kalisz will again be competing for medals at this year’s Special Olympics New Jersey Summer Games to be held Saturday and Sunday, May 31 and June 1, at The College of New Jersey in Ewing. During her previous three appearances at the summer games, Monika garnered five individual gold medals, her mother said. “She’s the best,” Margaret said, smiling at Monika as she sat next to her.
Monika, who has learning disabilities, has accomplished much over the last three years that she has been competitively swimming, her mother said. “It’s something that makes her feel good about herself.”
“I like swimming because I’m in the water and I get to compete with other people,” reveling in the thrill of competition, said Monika, who still bears traces of a Polish accent, even though she left 16 years ago.
As a member of Team New Jersey, Monika will be one of an estimated 3,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities, competing during the national games in 14 Olympic-style sports over a week period. The aquatics events twill take place at Princeton University’s DeNunzio Pool.
As a New Jersey Special Olympian, Monika will participate along with about 2,500 others during the two-days of state summer games
Monika, like her 17-year-old brother, Michael, grew up liking the water, so much so that, “there’s no family vacation without water,” their mother said.
“I was always the last to get out of the water,” Monika said.
“Even though she liked the water, she liked swimming. We never signed her up for lessons or anything,” Margaret said, believing that Monika would not stick with it.
But she did.
“I’m here every day,” Monika said of the YMCA of Western Monmouth County in Freehold where she’s in the pool for at least an hour a day. She’s also a member of the Monmouth Heights Marlins swim team, practicing with the team of 5- to 18-year-olds every Sunday and competing with them.
“I’m surprised at how well she’s done,” Margaret said.
“I’ve surprised myself,” Monika said.
After high school, Monika hopes to study culinary arts with hopes of one day becoming a chef, working on her passion for cooking – and, of course, swimming.
The Special Olympics World Summer Games will be in Los Angeles next year and Monika is looking toward that competition as her next challenge after competing in the 2014 Special Olympics USA National Games.
“You have to have the courage to try new things,” she said.
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