Going for gold

Nicholas Bruin going for a layup at 2023's Berlin Special Olympics. (Supplied)

By Ethan Benedicto

Gearing up for the Special Olympics was nothing out of the ordinary for local athlete Nicholas Bruin, who took part in the weekend’s basketball matches at Casey Stadium.

Hoping to be selected for the national team, Nick’s spirits were high after the national team claimed bronze at last year’s Berlin Special Olympics.

A Casey local, he first took part in the Special Olympics some 20-odd years ago; but his train doesn’t stop there however, with plans to also take part in September’s leg to solidify his position as a formidable point guard with hawk-like court vision.

For Nick, his eagerness spiked as the weekend approached, saying that he “never stopped binge excited”.

“[The games], are extremely important, because without them you wouldn’t have the National or World Games.

“It also gives us the opportunity to be like ‘normal’ people and join in and have fun you know?” Nick said.

Donning green for the weekend, he played for the Dandenong Casey Titans from 11am to 5pm on Saturday 6 July and once more from 9am to 3pm on Sunday 7 July.

To Nick, the sport “came naturally”, with a family of basketball players there was no question about it, but when asked what kept his love of the sport alive even though he is soon to be 45, it was as simple as “I love all my sports”.

Having been diagnosed with an intellectual disability at a young age, learning was difficult for Nick and while he ultimately carried basketball as his token sport, he indulged himself in cricket, soccer, footy and more.

“I used to play for Cranbourne Rockets on Thursday nights, and [recreationally] basketball on Friday nights.

“I did a fair bit of athletics, gymnastics, cricket as well; and I did soccer when I was a junior in primary school,” he said.

While he noted that he could never bring himself to his favourite player’s (Michael Jordan) level, his passion for the sport is easily on par; with a fond memory just a month prior had Nick out-rebounding the much taller opposing team.

“I’m like, c’mon guys, put a body on me or something, stop me from rebounding the ball!” he said.

Although crashing the boards might be exciting, nothing beats being the floor general for Nick.

“I love bringing the ball up the court, passing it around and shooting it, just being able to direct the plays.

“Of course helping my teammates out, they have a bit of knowledge of basketball but I still help them out,” he said.

Looking ahead, Nick is confident in his abilities, confident that he and his teammates will persevere and qualify for the Special Olympics World Winter Games in 2025 at Turin, Italy, and claim their gold medals.