Two accomplished Special Olympics Wisconsin runners traveled to Portugal last month to compete in the 2018 INAS Athletics Half Marathon World Championships.
Tyler Wigington of Middleton and Colton Lohrenz of Oneida traveled more than 4,000 miles for the October 21 event hosted by the International Federation for Athletes with Intellectual Impairments (INAS) in Coimbra, Portugal. The INAS functions within the Paralympic system to help elite athletes with intellectual disabilities around the world compete in sports.
While the half marathon was not a Special Olympics event, Wigington and Lohrenz were undoubtedly prepared for the rigors of a trip and race like this in part thanks to their extensive training and experiences with Special Olympics.
Wigington has been a Special Olympics athlete for nearly 15 years. He experienced high-level competition in the 2014 USA Games as a member of Team Wisconsin’s flag football team. “My many years of training in Special Olympics has prepared me to be the best athlete I can be, and to be able to travel the world to compete in high level, elite races,” the speedy Wigington said.
In addition to helping him train physically to the point where he now regularly runs half marathons, Special Olympics has also helped Wigington develop life skills necessary for a trip like this. Wigington has excelled as an athlete leader and now works full time and recently even began living on his own.
“Special Olympics has been amazing for him. Never ever in my wildest dreams would I have believed he’d get to this point in his life. It’s helped him tremendously.” – Colton Lohrenz’s mom, Charmaine
Lohrenz is a recent Team Wisconsin member, having just traveled to Seattle this summer for the 2018 USA Games. He was a key contributor on the silver medal-winning basketball team. His long-distance running stamina helped propel him up and down the court as the team’s point guard. While it was his first trip to the USA Games, he’s been a Special Olympics athlete for more than a decade.
He thinks all the training he did for the USA Games paid off in Coimbra too. “The USA Games helped make me an awesome runner in my training for the Portugal half marathon,” Lohrenz said. The 200-plus running races that Lohrenz has competed in in his lifetime surely had something to do with it too.
Like Wigington, Lohrenz now lives on his own and works full time. He is proud of his service awards for his work at Festival Foods and he even does public speaking as an advocate for independent living. His mother, Charmaine Lohrenz, doesn’t think any of this would have been possible without Special Olympics.
“Special Olympics has been amazing for him. Never ever in my wildest dreams would I have believed he’d get to this point in his life. It’s helped him tremendously,” she said. “For him to be driving, running all these marathons, working a full-time job. That never would have crossed my mind as a possibility.”
As much as Special Olympics Wisconsin loves to see its athletes succeed in Special Olympics events, it especially loves to see its athletes succeed in life. Lohrenz and Wigington are great examples of athletes who have grown immensely in their time as Special Olympics athletes. Their running adventures help showcase that growth to us here in Wisconsin, and to people all over the world.