Katie and Jason, two local athletes, have returned to northwest Ohio with a lot of hardware from the National Special Olympics USA competition. Not only did the duo bring home three medals a piece, but they??re also brother and sister.
The Rupert siblings of Grand Rapids were two of the nearly 3,500 athletes who competed in the National Special Olympics in northern New Jersey last week. The two made it through local and statewide Special Olympics competitions before qualifying for the national event in their respective sports. Jason, 23, competed in four swimming events.
??It takes a lot of training, a lot of courage, a lot of endurance, a lot of speed,?? said Jason.
And the several years of training Jason put into swimming paid off, medaling in three of the four events he competed in, winning silver in the 50 yard freestyle and the 4x25 medley relay. He took home bronze in the 50-yard breaststroke.
It was Jason??s first time competing at the national event, but for his sister Katie, 24, it was her second go-around. The first time she focused on swimming, but this year, she competed in numerous cycling events. Katie says she can reach speeds up 30 mph. The need for speed got her hooked on the sport, and fast she was. At the National Special Olympics, she won the gold medal in the 2-kilometer cycling event, while bringing home silver in the 5k and 10k races.
??That means all the hard work I put in, and all of the practice, and all of the gas my mom put into it, and all the time and effort?|it means I did well,?? Katie told NBC 24.
For Jason??s and Katie??s mom, Patty, the medals represent more than an athletic victory.
??A lot of times, they hear, ??you can??t, you can??t, you can??t.?? But this past week, it was all about, ??you did it, you did it, you did it! So it really was an incredible experience for all of the athletes out there,?? said Patty.
When Jason and Katie weren??t competing, they had a chance to enjoy northern New Jersey and New York City. Jason said his favorite part was getting to fly in a plane, while Katie loved the cruise she and other athletes got to take around Manhattan.
Both Katie and Jason, who have been involved with the Wood County Special Olympics for more than a decade, say they will continue to train and compete, and hope to defend their medals at the next National Special Olympics competition.
Meanwhile, the Wood County Special Olympics are looking for more volunteers to help out the more than 450 athletes in their program. According to Penny O??Connell of Wood Lane, a non-profit group and major supporter of the Wood Co. Special Olympics, this time of year is when they have the most need for volunteers since many of the Bowling Green State University students that help them out are away for the summer. She says even if you can help just one night a week, it would greatly assist the organization. If interested, you can contact Emily by calling (419) 352-5115.