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Johnson (53), who is totally deaf, showed his emotions when he touched first in the division two 15m unassisted swim yesterday in a time of 24.42sec. Garth Laird (Whangarei) was runner-up in 32.73sec.
''It was an awesome swim and meant a lot to Dave,'' coach Tracey O'Connell said.
''He just loves the water.''
Johnson has been swimming most of his life and has been involved in Special Olympics for the last 20 years.
It was his first Summer Games and his first New Zealand title.
''Dave has trained consistently for the last four months and has had three big weeks leading up to the Summer Games,'' O'Connell said.
There are only three swimmers in the South Canterbury team and Johnson's win impressed his team-mates.
''David's a cool guy,'' Matthew Keenan said.
Kim O'Grady (Waikato) was a convincing winner of the division one women's 100m breaststroke in 2min 21.17sec. Katrina Hewett (North Otago) was second in 3min 5.5sec and Teresa Edgecumbe (Canterbury) third.
The final day of swimming for the 215 competitors will be held at Moana Pool today.