Milwaukee Area Athletes Bring Home Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals For Special Olympics Team USA at the Country's Largest Sporting Event of the Year
After two weeks of competition at the most spectacular sporting event this year – the Special Olympics World Summer Games ATHENS 2011 - Special Olympics Wisconsin's (SOWI) two qualifying athletes have returned home with medals swinging from their necks and a handful of ribbons.
Rebecca Stelpflug, 20, of Menomonee Falls, swam to a first place finish and earned a gold medal in the 100 m backstroke. She earned a bronze medal in the 50 m medley relay and placed 5th place and 4th place in the 200 m freestyle and the100 m freestyle, respectively.
Christopher Mark, 17, of Burlington, who competed in track and field, leaped to a second place finish in the long jump, earning a silver medal. He finished 4th in his other two races, the 200 m and 4x100 m relay.
Stelpflug and Mark were part of Special Olympics Team USA, which was comprised of 315 athletes and 125 coaches, united from June 25 – July 4 to compete at these World Games with 7,000 athletes from nearly 180 nations. In addition, this vast event drew more than 25,000 volunteers, 3,000 event officials and thousands of families, spectators and journalists from every continent. These World Games were a milestone event of a long-lasting movement, founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, to create a world of inclusion and acceptance. In Athens, the birthplace of modern sport, where the true values of competition were born, the talents and skills of Special Olympics athletes reminded us what the World Games are really about, where all participants are winners in their struggle for respect, inclusion and unity.
Mark has been involved in Special Olympics nearly three years. Outside of Special Olympics he enjoys art, truck pulling, driving tractors and camping. "It [Special Olympics] has given me the opportunity to be involved in sports and be recognized," said Mark, "and it makes me feel great that I can do what all other kids do." Mark's honors include the "perfect attendance" award for five years straight in school, as well as being on the honor role and serving as a mentor for incoming freshman at his high school.
Stelpflug has been involved in Special Olympics for 10 years, training in swimming, golf, basketball and bowling. She competed at the second-ever Special Olympics National Games this past July in Nebraska, winning three gold medals and a 4th place ribbon in her swimming competitions.
Outside of Special Olympics, she enjoys art, sports and music. Of Special Olympics she says, "It has built my self esteem and I get to meet lots of new friends. It gives me the chance to compete in many sports which makes me happy." Her honors include receiving the "student of the month" award three times and being on the honor roll for the last five years.
This was the 13th Special Olympics World Summer Games. Every two years, thousands of Special Olympics athletes worldwide come together to showcase their athletic skills and celebrate the spirit of Special Olympics. Alternating between Summer Games and Winter Games, Special Olympics World Games bring public attention to the talents and capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities, helping to change attitudes and break down barriers that excluded them from the mainstream of the community.