Fifty years ago, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics. And this year, Vermont’s tiny delegation came back from the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington,, with armfuls of medals.
Competing first for Team Vermont was Aaron Sanville of Greensboro Bend, in the 100-meter dash. When Aaron got the call that he was invited to the USA Games last December, he made a commitment to training hard and getting in shape. Since then, he stopped drinking soda, changed his diet, and started working out regularly with his coach, Selina Hunter. Aaron reports that between track workouts and running a loop near his house, he’s now running 8-10 miles per week.
All of that hard work translated into three lifetime personal bests for Aaron and a gold medal in the 200-meter – the first ever gold medal for Vermont in a USA Games in Athletics. Almost twenty years ago, Aaron ran a 1:15 400-meter while competing in high school track. At USA Games, after months of dedicated training, Aaron, now 36, ran a lifetime best time of 1:13.87, placing fourth.
Coach Hunter’s training plan also prepared Michelle Olden for impressive personal record performances in the 100- and 200-meter races, earning her two silver medals.
In swimming, Team Vermont made some serious waves. Zada Anderson earned a silver medal in the top women’s division of the 50-meter butterfly, followed by a bronze in the 100-meter freestyle. Teammate Christopher Mitchell came from behind in an exciting last lap of the 100-meter freestyle for a silver medal, and earned a second silver medal in the 50 freestyle.
The basketball court provided perhaps the loudest cheers for Team Vermont. Over the last several months, The Vermont Unified basketball team developed into a cohesive force, both on and off the court. After two days of pool play and a very close game against Florida that went into overtime, Team Vermont was undefeated at 4-0. In the gold medal game, they took on a talented team from Connecticut. Down by one at halftime, they began the second half with a huge three-pointer from Gary Whalon — and never looked back. In the end, Vermont overpowered Connecticut 38-29, clinching the gold medal.
Every four years, the Special Olympics USA Games offer athletes with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to compete on the national stage. The 2018 USA Games, hosted in Seattle, July 1-6, 2018, welcomed more than 4,000 participants representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia to compete in 14 Olympic-type team and individual sports. The Games were supported by tens of thousands of volunteers and spectators.
The 19-member delegation from Special Olympics Vermont included 14 participants, four coaches, and a Head of Delegation. Athletes include Michelle Olden of Brownington and Aaron Sanville of Greensboro Bend competing in Athletics (track & field) under the direction of their coach, Selina Hunter. Christopher Mitchell of Sudbury and Zada Anderson of Jericho competed in swimming with support from their coach, Chad Phalon.
The Unified basketball team from Champlain Valley Union High School – made of up students with and without intellectual disabilities who train and compete together – competed in the interscholastic Unified basketball division. This team included Lindsey Albertelli, Haley Clos, Kevin Conger, Wayne Elias, Robert Ellis-Clark, Paul Keen, Shannon Loiseau, Graham Walker, Erin Watson, and Gary Whalon, with Peter Booth and Anthony Spagnolo coaching.
The Games kicked off with a star-studded Opening Ceremony at the University of Washington attended by 39,000 spectators and volunteers. Special guests included Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, Taye Diggs, Charlie Puth, DJ Marshmello, and a 2018-member choir.
“These kids worked so hard together for the last three months,” said Peter Booth, basketball coach for Team Vermont. “Having their efforts pay off in such a big, satisfying way was just icing on the cake.”
More information about the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games can be found at: https://www.specialolympicsusagames.org