Janet Carter believes she can win a gold or at least a silver medal in the 25-meter freestyle swim at this week's International Summer Special Olympics, despite not learning how to swim until 1977.

Carter suffered brain damage at birth and at 25 years of age she will leave Washington for the first time ever. She will join 3,500 other mentally handicapped youngsters (age 8 and older) from 32 countries to compete in 12 sports and 30 events in the fifth annual games in Brockton, N.Y., Wednesday through Aug. 13.

"I'm really happy to be going to New York," Carter said. "This is my first time leaving home but I'm not too nervous. I think I'm going to do just fine in swimming."

Her coach, Roy Fagin, said, "When I met Janet in 1977 she didn't even know how to swim. I taught her how and in less than two years she has been selected to represent the District in the Special Olympics.It's quite an accomplishment."

Fagin, who captained Morgan State University's swim team for three years, said he expects even bigger performances from 16-year-old, 50-meter freestyler Renairdo (Ricky) Brown.

"I really believe Ricky can win the gold medal;" Fagin said. "His best time is 29 seconds and my best time when I was 21 years old competing on the swim team was 23 seconds. He'll be really good if he sticks with it."

Brown said he intends to stick with his coach and swimming and added, "I plan on bringing home some gold. I've never been to New York, but I'm going to have some fun. But the big thing is to win the gold."

May Eaton said her 15-year-old daughter is just as excited about her chances of winning a medal in the Frisbee accuracy toss competition.

Eaton, who is afflicted with Down's Syndrome, has been telling everyone, "I'm going to New York and I just love New York," said her mother.

"But she's never been there at all," her mother added. "She's just very excited about participating."

Fagin, who has been working with the Special Olympics for two years, said, "There's no way to verbally describe the excitement these kids feel. We showed them their royal blue-and-white uniforms last night and the reaction was unbelievable. They went bonkers."

Fagin says that the importance of the games is for the public to realize that mentally handicapped people have just as great a need to express themselves physically as anyone else.

"These games are just as special to our kids as the 1980 Olympic Games are to those competing athletes," he said.