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“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.”
FRANCIS OF ASSISI

The Ring God

Glen Marks

People call me the Ring God,” Marc Janovics says, rolling up his sleeve to show off his muscles. Janovics has just performed a Maltese, an impressive feat of strength on the still rings. Like any other elite gymnast, Janovics’ life centers around his sport. He faces the challenges of maintaining his body composition, finding the time and energy to practice as often as possible and handling the pressures of competitions. But Janovics faces one challenge that other elite gymnasts don’t have.

The 26-year-old gymnast was born with Down syndrome. Janovics was what the doctors call a “floppy baby,” slow to hold his head up and to develop motor skills that other kids acquire naturally. He did not walk until he was 26 months old and struggled with low muscle tone, short limbs and cognitive impairment. But the “Ring God” had already begun to master these obstacles before he’d even seen a pair of still rings.

“Marc did interesting things when he was a baby,” says Marge Janovics, Marc’s mother. “I was always finding him in sinks and he would hang from every surface he could find.”

Mrs. Janovics first took her son to Elk Grove Gymnastics School when he was 6 years old and he became hooked. “All through elementary school, they couldn’t get him off the monkey bars at recess,” said Marge. “He’d come home from school with open sores and bloody rips on his hands,” she added. A gym teacher said that when Marc disappeared, he would always know where to find him. “I’d have to look up,” he said, “and he’d be hanging or climbing somewhere.”

Training under Coach Glen Marks, Janovics has defied all the expectations of gymnasts with Down syndrome. He has been the state champion in his division in Special Olympics for the last 16 years and is the only Level 4 male gymnast in the state. “The skills he’s doing are way beyond what we ever thought he’d be able to do,” Marks said.

Janovics’ accomplishments extend beyond special needs competitions. As a student at Rolling Meadows High School, Janovics became the only gymnast with Down syndrome in the state’s history to compete at the junior varsity and varsity levels. He won five meets - three on rings and two on floor, and placed 15th on rings at the high school conference meet. His teammates gave him the title “Ring God.”

Janovics started at Elmhurst College last fall in the Elmhurst Life Skills Academy program. “Being a college student was a big dream of mine,” said Janovics.

Janovics is a wonderful example of what hard work, dedication and perseverance is all about.