Stanly Special Olympics athlete earns medals at national games

Published 1:57 pm Friday, July 8, 2022

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The national Special Olympics recently wrapped up its national competition, with one Stanly athlete walking away with medals.

Former West Stanly High School swimmer Caleb Wilson earned three silver medals at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando. Wilson swam in the 50-yard freestyle and backstroke events along with a relay team from North Carolina.

Wilson started competing with Special Olympics in 2015 and reached the state competition each year. He was one of eight swimmers representing North Carolina. He practiced three to four times a week to get ready for the national competition.

Mark Rowles, who coached Wilson both at West and for Special Olympics, said swimming “is hard. It’s endurance. Just think of the bare necessities of each practice. You’re looking at the eight-inch wide line on the bottom, swimming 25 yards and turning to swim 25 more. It’s monotonous.”

“It’s so much training,” Rowles added. “He did what he had to do and made it work.”

Being at the ESPN Wide World of Sports for the opening ceremonies and swimming at the Rosen Aquatic Center, the coach added, “is magnificent and is everything Caleb and every other athlete deserves.”

Working with Caleb “has been a lot of fun. It’s been a challenge and rewarding more than anything to see someone who overcomes, overachieves and outperforms, defying your expectations. Being involved with him is a privilege.”

Caleb’s mother, Heidi Mitchell, said to her knowledge Caleb is the only Special Olympics athlete from Stanly to compete in the USA Games.

“It’s an honor to go to the USA Games. It’s an honor to recognize his independence,” Mitchell said.

She added part of going to the national games is an interview process with the athlete, his family and local volunteers. Athletes have to fly and stay in a hotel by themselves independently to be part of the national competition.

“It’s a very independent endeavor…you have to have a level of independence to take care of your basic needs and he can,” Mitchell added about her son. “There’s more to (Special Olympics) than getting a medal and competing.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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