The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games were held last week in the Puget Sound region and will undoubtedly be considered one of the most significant sporting events in our area’s history.
The event showcased the awe-inspiring abilities of approximately 3,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities competing in 14 sports in venues across Puget Sound including Kenmore Lanes in our readership area. An estimated 10,000 volunteers and over 80,000 family members and spectators enjoyed the games. The regional economic impact of the 2018 USA Games is projected at over $75 million.
I had the opportunity to chat with Samuel (Sam) Quezada, one of the athletes, along with his grandparents, Will and Kathleen Netelenbos, right before the games as he was packing for his six night stay at the USA Games village at the University of Washington campus. Will said that this would be the longest period of time that Sam will be away from their home since he and his brother Josh moved in with their grandparents following the death of their mother four years ago.
Sam is 23 years old and a 2013 graduate of Inglemoor High School. He is autistic and following graduation he completed the ATP (Adult Transition Program) at Bothell High School. He currently works at Microsoft Café 86 by taking two buses every workday to get to the Redmond Campus.
Sam is relatively new to the world of competition sports. He joined the Northshore Wranglers Inclusion Program (see sidebar story) in the early spring of 2017. There he participated in the track and field program with a very supportive and inspiring coach, Cole Caplan. Sam says, “I learned a lot from him.”
Sam participated in the Washington Special Olympics last year and has continued to train to qualify to compete in the USA Games this year. His events are the 100M, 200M, 4x100M Relay, and the Long Jump. His favorite event is the 100M Dash. He assured me that he is very fast!
Sam trains at Ingelmoor High School by running the track and by playing soccer. His grandparents said that Sam does this most every day on his own. He not only takes his physical training seriously, but he told me he’s eating right too with a lot of fruits and vegetables.
He admitted that he is a little nervous to compete as he wants to do well. From Sam’s bio he attests, “knowing that you are not there just by yourself and are motivated by the support from other competing athletes like yourself, coaches, friends and family. The opportunity to prove that no matter what, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.”
His advice to other kids that may want to get involved in competition in the future, “just do it.” He said, “It is a lot of fun. It makes me feel good and gives me more confidence.”
Locally, Andrew Bryant from Woodinville and Jeremy Wall from Bothell also participated in multiple track and field events at the recent 2018 Special Olympics. Congratulations to all of the amazing athletes!