By Bill & Laurie
We were so excited when our son Patrick was chosen to join Team USA as a speed skater at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang, Korea. As part of Team USA, he participated in training camp in Lake Placid, NY in December of last year and later competed in the World Games in Korea January 29-February 5, 2013. Patrick was one of 152 athletes on Team USA (five of whom were from Illinois) who competed with approximately 3200 athletes from 111 countries in seven winter sports.
This was an incredible opportunity for him. It was the culmination of twelve years of skating and hundreds of practices and meets. While this background prepared him well, he was also very lucky to have been selected. A number of things needed to happen: Patrick had to win a gold medal in the state winter games last year, Special Olympics Illinois had to be awarded a “slot” for a male speed skater in World Games, he had to be nominated for that slot, and of course he had to be selected from the pool of nominations.
At World Games, Patrick advanced to the finals in each of his three speed skating events. He won a bronze medal in the 500m, a gold medal in the 777m and finished in fourth place in the 333m.
One of the highlights of the experience for us was Patrick’s 333m final race. He led the pack of skaters at the start, and we had brief visions of him winning more gold, but then something happened. He slowed down considerably, and we had no idea why. He tripped and fell, got up and almost fell again several more times. Later, we learned that his coaches were amazed he was able to finish the race. His skate blade had cracked, and a two inch piece had broken off.
What was impressive to us was that he didn’t give up. As much as he wanted to win, he knew he didn’t have a chance, but finished the race without feeling sorry for himself or getting disqualified. He even congratulated the winner afterward!
We were proud of him when he won his gold medal, but were even prouder that afternoon. Over the years Patrick has gone through a long process of learning good sportsmanship and what is truly important in competition. That afternoon we think that Patrick finally understood and demonstrated the meaning of the Special Olympics oath that he has recited at dozens of competitions: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”