CASPER – Four competitors put their talents on display at the Wyoming Special Olympics Fall State Games over the weekend in Casper, combining to bring home three gold medals and a silver medal.
“The athletes were very coachable and improved so much over our practice sessions that coach (Sage) Fields and I were not surprised at all by their success at the Games,” said Craig Schadwinkel, the local Special Olympics coordinator and coach. “The smiles on their faces as they received their medals on the Olympic stand made all of our efforts worthwhile.”
The four Olympians have been working on their craft since September. They started by working on flexibility, cardio and soccer fundamentals, according Schadwinkel. When the competition got closer, the group began working on specific skills every night to hone its craft for the competition – individual soccer skills.
E.J. Haas and Austin Bayless, both of which are newcomers to Special Olympics, picked up gold medals in their divisions. Ethan Lemman was the final local competitor to snag gold, winning his division.
“This was E.J.’s and Austin’s first time to compete in Special Olympics and to win gold is pretty neat,” Schadwinkel said. “Ethan is a seasoned veteran in Special Olympics and provides the younger athletes with a positive example and always exhibits great leadership on the team.”
Savanna Anderson was the final Goshen County competitor to participate, taking second in her division. She was in good position after the first two rounds before suffering a knee injury. She charged through the final round and still took the silver.
“We were very proud of all of our athletes, but Savanna Anderson was injured after her second round of competition and we were all very proud of her for finishing the last event to win the silver medal,” Schadwinkel said. “Coach Fields and I both felt she would have won the gold medal if she hadn’t injured her knee earlier in the competition, as her scores were right up at the top of her round.”
Goshen County special Olympians are no stranger to winning gold medals, but these Games were slightly different.
“Last year, our Goshen County team won the gold medal in the traditional five-on-five competition, so this was neat to see that the kids are working hard individually and their hard work is paying off,” Schadwinkel said. “We hope their success will help them be more motivated as they prepare for the next competition season and try to push themselves to improve and continue to better themselves for life.”
The local Olympians are set to return to competitive action for the Summer Games. They will compete in both the Area and State Games. The State Games are currently slated for May 17-19 in Laramie.