N.H. athletes scored 135 medals at this year's Special Olympics USA Games
Athletes from New Hampshire won 135 medals in this year’s Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida.
More than 100 volunteers and athletes from New Hampshire traveled to Walt Disney World for the weeklong games. Local athletes participated in 10 of the 19 sports competitions, including powerlifting, swimming and basketball.
And for many people, like Beth Lemieux, it was a family affair. Her son, Eric, was busy competing in this year’s swimming competition. In addition to cheering him on, she's also the local program coordinator for the Claremont Cool Cats Special Olympics team, one of the 65 local teams represented at this year’s games.
Lemieux said she started the Claremont Cool Cats Special Olympics team as a way to give her son a more inclusive experience as an athlete. Now at age 32, he’s been competing in local Special Olympics games for more than 20 years.
“As an adult, and as a working adult, it has to fit around his work schedule,” Lemieux said. “But it's a very high priority in his life. So he puts it before, you know, a lot of things.”
During the last few years, training has been even more of a challenge because of the pandemic. Before COVID, Eric had at most two training sessions per week. His training regimen typically included a mix of strengthening and cardio, including walking on the treadmill, jogging, hiking and yoga sessions.
During the pandemic, Eric and other athletes had more limited access to in-person training and didn’t get as much of a chance to connect in person with other coaches or athletes. But they did find ways to connect virtually — for example, by recording videos of their training sessions for feedback from coaches. To prepare for this year’s games, Eric's training regimen also increased to four sessions per week.
As a parent and a local Special Olympics New Hampshire program coordinator, Beth Lemieux said she’d encourage other athletes and families to get involved, too.
“Oh, boy, I think I'd be like Nike and say, ‘Just do it,’ because it's just so incredibly rewarding,” she said. “It's a lot of work, don't get me wrong. But it is rewarding tenfold.”