Local athletes compete and win at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. The games took place July 1 – 6 in Seattle, Washington. Team Indiana consisted of seventy-eight individuals, including four athletes from Special Olympics Indiana – Ripley Ohio Dearborn Counties; David Paul, Charlie Wilson, Alex Kiefer and Unified Partner, Abby Kieffer. A crowd of more than 50,000 spectators cheered on the nearly 3,500 athletes who traveled from around the country to take part in the games.
Charlie Wilson, 21, of Aurora competed in Swimming during the six-day event. Wilson captured two gold medals in the 200M Freestyle, the first gold medal for Team Indiana, and the 100M Breaststroke. Wilson also received a seventh place ribbon in the 100M High Performance Individual Medley.
Alex Kieffer, 16, and his Unified Partner, Abby Kieffer, 14, both of Versailles competed in Bowling. The duo brought home two gold medals in the Unified Team Bowling event, competing with other Team Indiana athletes, and in the Unified Doubles competition. Individually, Alex brought home a silver medal in Traditional Bowling Singles.
“My eyes filled with tears of joy when I saw Alex and Abby receive their medals,” said their mother, Jessi Kieffer. “Words cannot express how thankful their father and I are for this opportunity. Special Olympics has shown Alex acceptance. He has grown socially, made lots of friends and he feels like he fits in. He is accepted for who he is. Special Olympics actually does that for the entire family; being a parent or a sibling of a special needs individual is challenging. With Special Olympics we are not alone.”
David Paul, 26, of Milan competed in Powerlifting. Paul captured a bronze in his bench press and was awarded fifth place in squat, deadlift, and in an overall combination score.
“David’s transformation from being mostly wheelchair bound five years ago to competing in Powerlifting is stunning,” said his dad, Tim Paul. “He is never one to turn down a challenge. He’s incredible.”
Team Indiana was welcomed home by fans at the Indianapolis International Airport. The final medal count for Team Indiana was: Gold 17, Silver 13, Bronze 12, Fourth 8, Fifth 6, Sixth 5, Seventh 1, Eighth 2, and one participation ribbon.
The four qualified for Team Indiana by first being nominated by their local Special Olympics program and then by competing and winning a gold medal in their respective sport during the 2017 Special Olympics Indiana Summer Games in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics has grown from a backyard event into a global movement comprised of year-round sports training and athletic competitions with the ultimate goal of building a more inclusive and accepting world.
In addition to showcasing the awe-inspiring abilities of thousands of athletes with intellectual disabilities, the 2018 USA Games in Seattle modeled the ideals of inclusion and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics movement. The games also served as a catalyst for Seattle’s City of Inclusion initiative and showcased the work Seattle area businesses and organizations are doing to create a community where people with intellectual disabilities are meaningfully and fully welcome and valued.
The games included competition for 14 sports in the best sports facilities in the greater Seattle region including the University of Washington, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, King County Aquatic Center, Willows Run Golf Club, Celebration Park, Angle Lake and Kenmore Lanes. The USA Games are held every four years. The last were held in Princeton, New Jersey in June of 2014; where the local Special Olympics Indiana program was represented by three athletes.
The 2018 USA Games also highlighted Special Olympics’ work in sport, education, health and community-building. Each member of Team Indiana was awarded with a pair of Brooks gym shoes by Dr. Tim Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman, for winning the USA Games’ Step Challenge.