Madison, Wis. – Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) selected 17-year-old John Dennis Ryder of Whitelaw as one of 62 athletes to represent Team Wisconsin at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in Princeton, New Jersey on June 14-21, 2014. Wisconsin athletes will compete in athletics, aquatics, bocce, bowling, flag football, gymnastics, powerlifting and volleyball.
Ryder has competed in SOWI basketball, flag football and softball for the past five years. He has earned a gold medal at the State Indoor Sports Tournament in Oshkosh and a gold medal for three consecutive years for softball. But Ryder says he competes in Special Olympics for more than just the awards.
“[Special Olympics has changed my life because] it gives me the chance to get out and meet a lot of people and have fun. Special Olympics has given me an active life where otherwise I would not,” he said. “It gives me the feeling of being a professional athlete, but I’m able to have fun instead of having it be a job.”
Ryder said attending the USA Games is a chance of a lifetime and a great honor. When not competing or training in Special Olympics, Ryder attends Valders High School. He enjoys painting and his artwork was displayed at a competition in Madison.
Ryder will compete in flag football and will be one of 86 delegates representing Team Wisconsin at the 2014 USA Games in New Jersey.
SOWI will host an official training camp for Team Wisconsin athletes on May 17-18, 2014 at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. The 2014 USA Games will showcase the abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities, promote the ideals of acceptance and inclusion through sport, and celebrate the transformative power of Special Olympics. A total of 3,500 athletes, 1,000 coaches and delegates, 10,000 volunteers and 70,000 spectators will attend.
Sports competition will be held at venues throughout Mercer County, New Jersey, including Princeton University, Rider University, The College of New Jersey, Mercer County Park and several area private schools. There will be ample opportunities for supporters across the state to show their spirit and join the team through volunteerism, donations and attendance. For more information or to learn more about how you can support a local athlete, visit www.SpecialOlympicsWisconsin.org/USAGames.