Joshua Low doesn’t get nervous, no matter what is at stake. Considering what he has overcome, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
Low has had two major heart surgeries — at six months and 20 months. And when he was four and a half years old, he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“Josh spent the better part of five years basically living at the hospital,” said his mom, Merry.
Because his condition was so serious, Low also spent time at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.
But Low beat the leukemia and has been cancer-free since he was nine years old.
And while the doctors cautioned against allowing him to participate in athletics, his parents didn’t want to deny him his wish.
“He was really sick, but he always really wanted to do sports,” Merry said.
“All the doctors were saying ‘no’ (but) we chose to let him go with sports because that is where his passion was, that is what he wanted to do.
“We finally made a decision to choose quality over quantity in terms of expectancy for him,” she added.
“He has just always been a sports fanatic.
“I think it was a bit genetic with him.”
His sporting passion comes as little surprise to Merry and her husband, Paul.
The Langley couple adopted Low — who was born with Down’s syndrome — when he was eight weeks old.
Both his biological parents were Phys Ed teachers.
Low, who is now 23, first joined Special Olympics when he was 12.
He has two younger siblings who also compete in Special Olympics — sister Kate, 22, and brother Jayk, 19.
“There was a huge turnaround in Josh’s health after he got involved with Special Olympics,” Merry said.
When he first joined the organization, Low was spending a couple of months a year in hospital, but his health gradually improved to the point where hospital stays were no longer required.
And on the field, Low excelled, playing a variety of sports: basketball, softball, power lifting, hockey, track and field and, now, swimming.
He took up swimming four years ago, with his mom teaching him— Merry was a competitive swimmer when she was younger.
“He thought it would be interesting to try and do what his mom used to do,” Paul said.
“He didn’t want to follow (in my footsteps), he wanted to beat me,” Merry added.
“He found out I swam and said, ‘I am going to do it better than you.’
“That’s his mentality; he’s a fighter, that one.”
And it was instant success for Low who has stepped up a level each year for four years, going from regionals the first year, to provincials, nationals and now worlds.
At the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games in Vancouver, Low won gold in the 25m freestyle, silver in the 25m butterfly and was fourth in the 25m backstroke.
On Monday (July 20) Low will be part of a special send-off party for the Canadian athletes who will represent their country at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.
The Games, which are held every second year, run July 25 to Aug. 2.
This year, more than 6,500 athletes from 165 countries will compete in 25 sports.
Low is one of four Langley athletes competing at the Games, alongside Alistair Singh and Matthew Williams — who are on the basketball team — and Karl Anderson, a pitcher on the Team Canada softball team (see page 27 for more).
Low will swim in the backstroke and freestyle events, as well as the 4×50 relay.
Low is excited about the opportunity, as are his parents, who will be attending as spectators.
“It was big to make this team,” he said.
“Just being there at the Games, competing for the team (I can’t wait).”
To get ready for the World Games, Low stopped participating in all his other sports — except for track and field — to focus on swimming.
Dan Ferguson/Langley Times
Joshua Low with his parents Merry and Paul; Low practises at the Al Anderson Pool on July 10 in preparation for the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.