The athletes that make up Special Olympics Wisconsin are nothing short of extraordinary. They overcome obstacles every day, but do so with courage and a smile. One athlete that showcases how well Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes defy all odds is Thao Xiong. Thao has been an athlete with Special Olympics Wisconsin for a number of years. He has participated in bocce, bowling, track and field, and snowshoeing. If the extensive list of sports he participates in wasn’t impressive enough, there is one characteristic about Thao that makes these athletic pursuits truly extraordinary: Thao is blind.

Being blind has never kept Thao away from the playing field. He is able to compete in all of his events on his own, with just a few special accommodations. For bowling, Thao is escorted to his lane and then uses a ramp before knocking down strikes. For bocce, Thao uses a metronome to hear where the pallino – the target ball – is located. According to his coaches, he is able to be extremely accurate, even though he is unable to see where to throw. Finally, for track and field and snowshoeing, all Thao needs is a string to hold onto and help guide him as he speeds his way passed the finish line.

Aside from his achievements on the field, Thao also makes a large impact on the people at his local agency. LuAnne Heil, Thao’s Agency Manager said, “Thao is a very personable young man! He is always willing to push himself when participating in events. It’s great to see how much the other athletes in our agency look out for Thao and are willing to help him in any way.”

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