Growing up, Calvert School student Oliver C. didn’t realize right away that his older sister, Sutton, had special needs. He only understood that she was special to him. Sutton was born prematurely and contracted meningitis at six weeks old, sustaining a brain injury because of it. She is 12 years old now and attends the Baltimore Lab School. In honor of Sutton, Oliver began participating in the Polar Bear Plunge when he was five years old with his grandfather. Since then, his team has expanded to include other friends and family members.
Tag: Special Olympics
In a pre-Super Bowl press conference, someone asked Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco what he thought about cold-weather cities playing host to the Super Bowl. “Yeah, I think it’s retarded,” he said — then immediately backtracked: “I probably shouldn’t say that. I think it’s stupid.” Despite an apology, over the next week, Flacco was condemned for his “poor command of the English language” and “offensive” word-choice. And now, Flacco (along with teammates Gino Gradkowski and Ed Dickson) has signed the Special Olympics’ R-Word Pledge, promising to never again use the term in a derogatory way.
The intellectually disabled athletes who compete in the Special Olympics of Maryland have one key characteristic in common with the hyper-driven young people who train for the U.S. Olympic Team: They are serious about sports, training regularly – and aggressively – with an eye toward victory. One pronounced difference: Special Olympians also train themselves not to fixate on outcome, but to live in the rushing moment of the game, to enjoy active play and camaraderie above all else. Such superb sportsmanship seems to come naturally for most of them.
“They approach the sport to be competitive,” says Jason Schriml, VP of communications for Special Olympics of Maryland. “That all ties in with our motto – ‘Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.’ They’re competing against their cohorts. [We emphasize to athletes:] ‘We’re going to train hard, but in the end there’s often only one winner. You still have the dignity and grace, and still enjoyed the process.’”
This weekend’s three-day competition marks the 42nd Special Olympics in Baltimore – the event was founded in Rockville in 1968. Each summer, athletes grouped by age, gender and ability, typically consisting of participants from 10 to their early 70s, compete in track and field, swimming, bocce, softball and cheerleading.