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Madame Butterfly: Meliah Motchman

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Standout Victoria swimmer Meliah Motchman has been nominated for a prestigious award (photo: Susan Simmons)

BC Disability

January 22, 2022

A Victoria Special Olympic swimmer has been nominated for a world open swimming award.

It's the first time an athlete with Down syndrome has been nominated for the award: voting ends soon.

A Victoria Special Olympic swimmer is the first person with down syndrome to be nominated for the prestigious World Open Water Swim Association’s Performance of the Year award.

Meliah Motchman, 30, is a member of the Victoria-based Spirit Orcas, a group of athletes with intellectual disabilities who swim in open waters, primarily the ocean.

“Meliah’s nomination is a real milestone in the history of open-water swimming,” says Susan Simmons, an ultra-marathon swimmer who coaches the Spirit Orcas and Special Olympics.

“This is a significant step forward for inclusion in our sport."

Madame Butterfly, Meliah Motchman, is known for both her swimming talent and determination (photos: Susan Simmons)

Motchman is one of 16 swimmers nominated from around the world. Motchman participated in an eight-week 80-km staged swim that raised $7,000 for COVID-19 relief, as well as five-km solo lake and ocean swims, all without a wetsuit - making her the first person with Down syndrome known to accomplish this.

Winners are determined through a voting system, with swimmers, coaches, event organizers, volunteers, observers or other contributors to the open water swimming community encouraged to vote before 3 p.m. Jan. 31 at

“Meliah is a determined athlete who overcomes her fears of seaweed and sea creatures every time she enters the water,” says Simmons.

“She and every other Spirit Orca are an inspiration to coach.”

Learn more information about Meliah and the Spirit Orcas


Spencer van Vloten is the editor of BC Disability. To get in touch, send an email to!


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