Game On: Learn about the divisioning process that differentiates Special Olympics from other sport organizations.

SONC offers competition in 33 different swimming events, ranging in distances from 15 meters to 1,500 meters, and featuring all strokes (backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle).

Individual events are offered for all strokes, and relay events are offered to athletes in all levels. SONC offers walking and flotation events for athletes of lower ability.

SONC also offers relay events in the Unified Sports model, featuring athletes with and without intellectual disabilities (called Unified Partners) to compete together.

Athletes may select up to three events from Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3, but must stay within their level. Athletes competing in all levels are eligible for one relay team event.

Level 1

15m Assisted Swim 25y Kickboard 25y Freestyle
15m Walk 25y Floatation Device 25y Backstroke
15 Unassisted Swim 25y Assisted Swim

Level 2

25/50y Backstroke 25/50y Butterfly 100y Individual Medley
25/50y Breastroke 25/50y Freestyle

Level 3

50/100/200y Backstroke 50/100y Butterfly 100/200y Individual Medley
50/100/200y Breastroke 50/100/200/500/1000/1650y Freestyle

Relay Team Events (Traditional & Unified Sports)

4×25/4x50y Freestyle Relay
4x50y Medley Relay

Always communicate with your local coordinator if you are interested in submitting registration for an event.

Summer Games/Invitational Registration Forms

  • Swimming Individual Registration Form
  • Swimming Relay Registration Form
  • Summer Games Deck Pass Application

Swimming Improved Performance Form – must submit by May 21, 2020. Only submit this form if the time for an event is faster than the one submitted for registration. The decision to change a division for an athlete will be decided by the competition management team, and/or SONC staff.

Local program coordinators should submit entries along with the remainder of the Summer Games registration.  Click here for a full list of Summer Games registration forms. These forms will be available closer to the event date.

SONC Summer Games will be held May 29-31, 2020 in Raleigh.

Special Olympics U.S. Southeast Swimming Invitational in Greensboro

Don’t miss the premier swim meet of the season! Featuring Special Olympics programs from the southeast U.S., competition will be exciting! This event is usually held in April of each year.  Please visit the Special Olympics U.S. Southeast Swimming Invitational web page for more detailed information.


Athletes and partners also have the opportunity and are encouraged to participate in various local invitationals. Check the swimming sport calendar for upcoming invitationals being hosted by local programs.

Local programs are also encouraged to host and invite neighboring counties to participate in invitationals, scrimmages, or leagues.  Click here for some basic steps on how to get started.  If you are interested in hosting an invitational you can also contact the sports department at

About Swimming: Swimming is one of the most popular sports in the world. Unlike other sports, swimming is a life skill that is taught, first, to ensure safety and, secondly, for sports and competition purposes. Swimming covers a great variety of swimming skills, from short sprints to longer events and relays.  

Differences of Special Olympics Swimming: The Meet Referee has the discretion to allow for certain modifications/interpretations of the current technical rules of Swiming. Standing on the bottom of the pool during freestyle events or during the freestyle portion of the medley events shall not disqualify a competitor, but he/she shall not walk. Assistant starters may be allowed to assist a swimmer during their start if the swimmer has a hearing or vision impairment.  

History: Swimming was first introduced to Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) in 1974, making it one of the oldest competition events. 

By the Numbers:   

  • Special Olympics North Carolina sent eight athletes and two coaches to the 1991 International Summer Special Olympics Games in Minneapolis, MN. 
  • 1992 marked the first year of mandatory regional qualifiers for athletes to attend prior to state-level events. 
  • Athletes from Onslow and Dare counties were the first to compete out of state in the Virginia Special Olympics Swim Invitational in Norfolk, VA in 1991 and 1992. 

Sport Development Teams (SDT) are responsible for assisting with local and state-level programs and competition, educating coaches and officials, and promoting active engagement among athletes throughout the year. Click here for more information.

Colleen Gillan – SDT Director

Mary Dwyer
New Bern

Patti Wilkerson

Certified Clinicians receive additional training in presentational skills to conduct training schools in their community.  In order to become a Certified Clinician one must have a Special Olympics North Carolina level 2 sport certification in this sport.

Peter Cowick

For more information on becoming an SDT member or a Certified Clinician, contact

Find out if this sport is offered in your community

Become an Athlete or Unified Partner

Special Olympics North Carolina offers sports training and competition in 19 Olympic-type sports to children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  Learn more on how to become an athlete.

Become a Unified partner and play on a team alongside athletes with intellectual disabilities.

Become a Coach

Combine knowledge and passion for a sport by becoming a Special Olympics North Carolina coach to lead athletes in preparing for local and state-level competition.

Become a Volunteer

Serve a crucial role at Special Olympics North Carolina by volunteering at our office or one of our many events throughout the year. Check out our home page for these volunteer opportunities.

Share Your Sport Knowledge

Officiate for Special Olympics North Carolina by donating your time as a sports official.  Contact for more information.

Sport Development Team members (SDT) are active volunteers who channel their passion and knowledge for a sport into effective leadership for local and state programs.  

Certified clinicians supplement the SDT by providing coaches training in their community.  Click here for trainers.

For more information on getting involved, contact