Olympic torch heading to Hamilton for Special Olympics National Summer Games

The Olympic torch is heading to Hamilton where the Special Olympics National Summer Games are kicking off for over 1300 athletes and coaches.

The Special Olympics are held in New Zealand every four years.

"I keep on telling myself, 'Jarrod just stay calm, you'll get through the four-day competition, you'll do fine, don't get nervous'," Special Olympics competitor Jarrod Gilbert told Newshub.

The 29-year-old works in inspirational company at the Velodrome in Cambridge, where New Zealand's high-performance squads train, but he's an Olympian in his own right.

He won gold and bronze snowboarding for New Zealand in Austria at the Special Olympics Winter Games in 2017.

In Hamilton at the Summer Games, he'll compete in swimming and be one of over 1000 Kiwi athletes across ten sports. 

"The courage these guys show and the barriers that are put in their way, nothing is insurmountable and they do it with a smile on their face," Special Olympics New Zealand CEO Carolyn Young told Newshub.

The training for the Olympics has been hardcore with the 18 swimmers at Gilbert's Te Awamutu club having been at the pool, gym, and biking every week all under the watchful eye of Te Awamutu's Special Olympics head coach Shelley Blair.

"I believe in extending my athletes and so I just keep raising the bar and extending them - and they never say no!" Blair said.

No one's excluded - participation is key.

Gilbert said the pressure will be on him as he is one of the flagbearers at the opening ceremony and is leading the charge.

Coaches, parents and supporters are excited to watch the athletes because they know how meaningful the Special Olympics are to them.

"Every time they swim, it's quite overwhelming really," Blair said tearfully.