Dr. Michael and Nicole Clark’s Experience at the 2014 USA Games

June 18, 2014

We started our journey to New Jersey for the 2014 USA Games on Monday morning bright and early from Wausau, WI.  Our flights went smoothly and we arrived to Princeton, New Jersey in the afternoon.  As we drove the traffic-laden highways of New Jersey, it was evident that the state was excited to support and host the Special Olympic athletes, coaches, and volunteers. From highway messaging boards welcoming Special Olympic athletes to vehicles painted with names, teams, and states, it was a heartwarming welcome.  

Being the very prepared person Dr. Mike is, he had enough medical supplies along to treat almost any illness, injury and complaint, and it wasn’t long before we started to receive calls to treat some minor aches and pains. We got to the dorms and set up a mini-med clinic in Bob Whitehead's room.  

The injured athletes came to the room with hesitation, worried that they would be pulled from their events.  One of the athletes said, “I think I broke my toe, but I’m still playing!”  His dedication and excitement to compete overrode his concern for his toe, a true champion. Thankfully everyone checked out ok and were able to return to their competitions for the week.

Tuesday, we were able to watch some competitions and we started with aquatics.  We were overwhelmed with the amount of support from the community, family, and friends as the bleachers were full and there was standing room only for us and the people who trickled in after the start of competition. It wasn’t uncommon for the crowd to chant and cheer for ALL athletes or see athletes hug each other at the end of their race.  We were humbled to witness such a true and pure form of sportsmanship. 

Next, we went to athletics to watch race walking, high jump, and long jump.  It. Was. Hot.  90 degrees to be exact.  Being from Wisconsin and still a bit bitter from our long and cold winter, we welcomed the heat. The local military worked hard, in uniform, to keep buckets of cold bottled water accessible to everyone.  

Volleyball was next, Team Wisconsin rocks!  We caught the end of their game and they were on fire.  That game made them 6-0!  We can’t wait to see more tomorrow!

Next, we watched bowling awards for men and woman’s singles.  Many of our athletes received medals or ribbons that were handed out by local law enforcement.  Wednesday, the bowlers start doubles and seem very excited to pair up!

Later in the day we visited the Olympic Village and Healthy Athletes. Healthy Athletes featured an impressive display of screenings for athletes attending the USA Games.  They provided onsite prescription eyewear, massages, hearing checks, and sun safety tips, among many others.  Multiple groups from Team Wisconsin participated in the services provided by Healthy Athletes.  Luckily, no major issues were discovered, but some athletes were able to receive prescriptive eyeglasses and others were recommended for follow-up care.   

The Olympic Village is a fun place for athletes and coaches to unwind (or maybe wind up) and is set up to mimic the New Jersey shore boardwalk.  It consisted of carnival rides, games, entertainment, and even WWE wrestlers signing autographs!  We are hoping the multiple spinning rides don’t result in a mass need for anti-nausea medication! It might be a long night for us all.  

We can’t quite put our experience into perfect words, but we want to thank everyone who is involved in Special Olympics. From parents and/or caregivers of athletes, to the athletes themselves, to the staff, coaches, and volunteers who organize these events, thank you.  Your hard work, dedication, and commitment to each other is what allows people like us have these memorable and life-changing experiences.

Dr. Michael and Nicole Clark

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