A group of Special Olympians made St. Charles Parish proud with their recent efforts at the 2018 USA Special Olympic Games in Seattle, Washington, bringing home a strong collection of medals.
Kurt Theriot earned gold medals in singles and unified team bowling as well as silver medal in unified doubles bowling; Ronnette Rome earned a gold medal in the unified team bowling and silver medals in singles and unified doubles bowling, and Hannah Hotard captured a gold medal in the 100m walk and a silver medal in the 50m walk, while also earning a high fourth place finish in the softball throw events. Crystal Duplechin earned a silver medal in unified team bowling and Andy Gay took gold in unified team bowling.
Unified partner volunteers also made a big impact. Annie Gaubert earned a gold medal in unified team bowling and a silver medal in unified doubles bowling. Victoria Corley captured the gold in unified team bowling and a bronze medal in unified doubles. Alex Miller earned the gold in unified team bowling and the silver in unified doubles bowling. Remi Mato got the gold in unified team bocce and the silver in unified doubles bocce. Adam Rhodes earned gold in unified team bowling. Unified partners are teammates without a disability who participate with a special athlete to form a unified team.
They all competed under the banner of Bayouland Special Olympics, and coach Mollie Picou said the competitors couldn’t have made her prouder, not only for the high level in which the team competed — 4,000 athletes and coaches from 49 states vied for those medals— but also the camaraderie shared by the team and sportsmanship exhibited.
“I thought it certainly was a great and memorable trip,” Picou said. “You get there and spend time with everyone. You all become a family. Everyone encourages one another. It’s just so positive and it was a very fun trip.”
Picou, who coaches bowling, said those athletes truly showed up ready for competition, which took place on the campus of the University of Washington.
“It was awesome … they were on fire that day,” Picou said.
Rome, in particular, really raised her level of performance, putting together a personal best effort on the biggest state – and almost doubling her previous high effort.
“She bowled a 145 and her best may have been an 80-something before. It just makes me so proud and so happy to see them accomplish these things. People don’t think they can do it, but I know they can and they proved it. And that’s awesome.”
For Rome and Theriot, it was their second time competing at the USA Games, which happen every four years. Ditto for Gaubert as a unified partner. For everyone else, it was the first trip.
To qualify, each athlete had to get through regional and state competitions.
“They want to take the best of the best, just like the Olympics,” Picou said.
The next major competition will be the World Games in Abu Dhabi. Each gold medalist would be qualified automatically for that, were they to choose to go and if Louisiana is selected as one of the state’s to earn a chance to send representatives for the U.S. team.
“It’s such a special thing to work with people who might not have a chance to compete in sports at a high level such as the Olympic Games and watch them achieve awards for their performance while not being singled out for their disability,” said Parks and Recreation Assistant Superintendent Kenny Guedry, who coached track and field at the games. “Giving our special needs residents this opportunity and allowing them equal opportunity to show their talent in any sport benefits our parish because it enhances the lives of our special athletes, their families and our community.”