Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Special Special Olympian

"I may have a disability,
but I can still feel,
I can still hurt.
 I am not invisible."
-Christie Clark, one of our World Games track athletes.

I shouldn't be surprised at this point of my (SO) coaching career that an athlete would come along and just blow my mind with their character, kindness, thoughtfulness, skill and work ethic.  I shouldn't be surprised because I have met them before, I have coached athletes like that, but yet, when someone comes along as special as Christie, it just takes me aback a little and makes me appreciate the opportunities I've had to coach Special Olympics.  Christie is from Portland Oregon and I first met her at the Team USA training camp in San Diego this past March.  She is a distance runner, 36 years old.  She works at home caring for family.  She is sharp, witty, kind and has a great sense of humor.

After meeting her, I went back and read her World Games application:
"Christie is very open to change."
"She will give the coaches respect no matter where he or she comes from-she will give 110%."
"She is a very positive person always willing to help or be part of the team...very supportive of her fellow athletes."

Little did I know at the time how understated those words would be.  During the difficult and challenging parts of the World Games, she never blinked an eye-always there for everyone else, including the coaches, when they needed a hug.  Sometimes, even the head coach needs a hug.  She would joke that I needed a "Christie Hug" to start my day, and even when I returned home, I had a card waiting saying so and a day later a phone call from Portland and Ms. Clark.  She became almost an assistant coach to our staff-anything we needed help with, she would willingly do.  Any athlete who maybe needed help-she would be on it without asking.  I do think she could have packed all 49 athletes roller duffles and had them done and ready for the bus before most of us could find our socks.

Kindness doesn't begin to describe her, and always a smile, but under it all is a person with great feeling and depth as well.  Re-read the opening sentence by her.  When that line was shared with me, it made me tear up-yes, she does feel, and she does hurt and she IS NOT invisible.  Wow.......I am amazed at our athletes, especially Christie, in so many ways.

I'm re-reading this and I never really mentioned Christie's track accomplishments, and for that I feel a little bad.    The mission statement of Special Olympics is:  to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Christie is an outstanding track athlete.  She trains hard and knows competition well and it was a thrill to she her on the track at Olympic stadium.  But to also see her excel at everything else Special Olympics is about was truly an amazing thing.  I am so lucky to have met and befriended another very special athlete.  Thank You Christie.
-Coach Steve 
Christie during the Unity Sports 4X100 Relay

Proud Coach and Athlete
The Bronze-headed back to Oregon.

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