Special Olympics: Plymouth, Minn. swimmer Abby Hirsch - KMSP-TV

Special Olympics: Plymouth, Minn. swimmer Abby Hirsch 'comfortable in the water'

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It's a life-changing event only a few athletes are selected to participate in, but a young swimmer from Plymouth, Minn., will be competing in the Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey before 70,000 spectators.

Abby Hirsch has invested the last 12 years of her life to competing in Special Olympics sports and supporting the organization in a variety of ways -- but now that she's made it to the national competition, she can't help but count down the days to the opening ceremony.

"I can't even tell you in words," she said. "It was so exciting for me to find out I got accepted."

Hirsh already has several medals to her name.

"I have an amazing local coach who's been working with me tirelessly on Fridays," she said.

That practice has certainly paid off, because she's now among a select few athletes that will head to New Jersey from Minnesota -- one of 3,500 athletes from across the country to compete.

"Swimming releases all my stress out of me," Hirsh said. "I just feel comfortable in the water."

The 20-year-old says her breast stroke is her best stroke, and she won a gold medal for it in a state competition last year; however, she'll compete in a number of swim events in New Jersey.

"Butterfly, back stroke, breast stroke, freestyle," she counted. "Then, I'm doing 100 free, then 100 breast, and then I'm doing a 4 by 50 medley relay."

With support from the folks at Lifetime Fitness, she practices at least four times a week and logs countless hours to perfect her aquatic craft.

"I'm just there to do my best, and that's the only thing that matters," Hirsh said.

Her parents-- Christopher and Jodi -- see their daughter's trip to nationals as a major milestone, and her older brother, Andy, couldn’t' be more stoked.

"I love the joy I see her get out of competing," he told Fox 9 News.

The Special Olympics is about so much more than sports to the Hirsch family because the athlete is also a global messenger for the organization and raises awareness through public speaking.

"Mostly, I talk about the R-word. It is really hurtful and offensive," she said.

Multifaceted and multitalented, Hirsh plans to represent Minnesota with pride.

"I got this experience of a lifetime and that's the biggest thing," she said.

As for what's next, Hirsh says she hopes to become a personal trainer. In fact, she admitted that one of her dreams is to meet celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels.

Hirsh also plans to apply to compete in the global Special Olympics competitions, which will take place next year.

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