Topeka Special Olympics Team Wins Gold at USA Games

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TOPEKA (KSNT) — The Topeka Stars Special Olympics softball team won a national championship on Friday.

The local softball team, made up of athletes with intellectual and physical special needs, traveled to Orlando, Florida last week and returned with equipment.

“The emotions were over the top,” said athlete Shawn McWilliams. “I was at a loss for words. I didn’t really know what to say.

The team has been active for 8 years and many of its athletes have been competing since day one.

“It’s great that we can come out and be ambassadors for Special Olympics, proving that just because these people have intellectual differences doesn’t mean they aren’t disabled,” said head coach Allan Henderson. . “They try to prove it every day.”

Along with the memories they create on the field, being on the team helps athletes grow into mature young adults, Henderson said. Players must sign a behavior contract to participate. The contract means they agree to stay away from bad habits and commit to representing themselves and their team to the best of their abilities.

“There was a time when my anger got the better of me,” McWilliams said. “From where I was before and here I am now… I’ve been told a lot, every day. I’ve come a long way from where I was.

Henderson got the idea for the team while watching a recreational softball game adapted from the Special Olympics. He realized that the difference in ability was significant and worried about the safety of some of the less successful athletes. He also realized that top athletes had a lot of skills.

He started the Topeka Stars softball teams, and they started playing in local league games. The team has workouts, weightlifting, and even diet and physical training to help the young men on the team prepare to play at an elite level within Special Olympics.

McWilliams, a 26-year-old with bipolar disorder and ADHD, is grateful for what he and his teammates have been able to show others through their game.

“The way I see Special Olympics is, it gives people with intellectual disabilities a chance, or people who can’t really move well, it gives them a chance to show what they’re made of in any sport. they practice,” McWilliams said.

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