Feature Story and Photos by Larry H. Oskin, South Lake Tablet

Special Olympics Florida is headquartered in Clermont, Florida and this year it hosted its National USA Games in Greater Orlando with the Triathlon Race held at Lake Minneola in Clermont.

Triathlon Florida athlete is Kyle Krekeler of Taveras and the Unified Partner is Greg Brown

For only the second time in history, the USA Games offered the Triathlon sports race. Triathlon Sprint is a three-sport athletic competition involving swimming, bicycling and a 5K running race. It’s an endurance sport where athletes train in all three disciplines, developing increased physical fitness and cardiovascular benefits.

A total of 550 Florida Special Olympics athletes participated in the games this year. Over 5,000 athletes were here to participate in these 50th Anniversary games with over 125,000 families and fans attending from all across the USA and the Caribbean. Five states participated in the Clermont Triathlon including Florida, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Colorado. The 2022 Special Olympics included 53 Florida participants including their Unified Partners. There are 18 Triathlon athletes with 18 Unified partners including Adam Mucklow from the Clermont area. All of the Triathlon athletes swam 440 yards, biked 10.8 Miles and they ran 3.1 miles in the 5K race.

Special Olympics uses a “divisioning system” to create fair competition groups. The fundamental difference between Special Olympics competitions and those of other sports organizations is that athletes of all ability levels are encouraged to participate, and every athlete is recognized for his/her performance. Competitions are structured so that athletes compete with other athletes of similar ability in equitable divisions. Divisioning is implemented by determining each athlete’s ability as the primary factor in the Special Olympics competitions. Other factors that are significant in establishing competitive divisions are age and sex.

Here are the divisions and places for our Florida triathletes:

Division F1 Unified:

  • 1stAdrienne Bunn (athlete) Ocala and Amanda Kenny (UP) Winter Garden
  • 2nd Julliette Soos (athlete) Orlando and Maryory Calixto (UP) from Rockledge

Division F2 Unified:

  • 1stKairee Whitmore (athlete) New Port Richey and Phyllis Crain (UP) Tampa
  • 2ndAbigail Adams (athlete) Orlando and Alison Walker (UP) Orlando
  • 3rd Jennifer Hartley (athlete) Jacksonville and Pat Smith (UP) Orlando

Division M1 Unified:

  • 1stJoshua Olds (athlete) Fort Lauderdale and Haley McInerny (UP) Sanford
  • 2ndKennet Lefkovic (athlete) Palm Coast and Carlos Mendoza (UP) Orlando
  • 3rd Andrew Ahearn (athlete) Land O Lakes and Robert Berlant (UP) Orlando
  • 4thRyan Aytona (athlete) Lakeland and Jerome Bareth (UP) Sanford

Division M2 Unified:

  • 1stJonathan Sady (athlete) Apopka and Jamie Moses (UP) Orlando
  • 2nd AJ Mucklow (athlete) The Villages and David Berlant (UP) Orlando
  • 3rd Thomas Welsh (athlete) Reddick and KC Northup (UP) Sanford

Division M3 Unified:

  • 1stChris Nikic (athlete) Maitland and Daniel Grieb (UP) Winter Springs
  • 2nd Brandon Lang (athlete) Lakeland and Lori Campbell (UP) Winter Springs
  • 3rd Zachary Deonath (athlete)  Donnellon and Jeff Meister (UP) Rockledge

Division M4 Unified:

  • 1stFrankie Russell (athlete) Pensacola and Carol Walker(UP) Orlando
  • 2nd New Hampshire Athlete and UP
  • 3rd Chad VanScoter (athlete) Orlando and Mark VanScoter (UP) Orlando

The Special Olympics Florida team works together to deliver on its mission to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities who wish to participate. There are many unique values, benefits and advantages provided by the Special Olympics Florida. The organization provides an amazing platform for athletes to hone their skills, practice, build confidence and to showcase their talents. Through strategic leadership, training and competitions, they are always working to reveal the champion within each of their athletes. Special Olympics works to spread compassion, inclusion and acceptance for the athletes and their families to help unite the world. Their goal remains to awaken everyone and every community with a successful common humanity.

Special Olympics Florida provides in-person and virtual health exams to over 13,000 athletes inclusive of eye, dental and hearing examination checkups with prescription eyeglasses, orthodontics, hearing aids and more with no cost to their athletes. There are absolutely no fees to the athletes for full participation with uniforms, equipment, training and comprehensive healthcare. There are over 60,000 athletes participating here in Florida. Volunteerism, sponsorships and donations make it all possible. Special Olympics Florida, Inc. is a 501-C3 charitable organization. Eighty-five cents of every dollar donated goes directly into programming.

The ultimate objective of Special Olympics Florida is to help all people with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society at large, by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition and by increasing the public’s awareness of their capabilities and needs. Special Olympic Florida athletes can participate in training programs for swimming, running, cycling, triathlons, bowling, softball, football, flag football, golf, powerlifting, surfing, standup paddle, equestrian, ironman, leadership, and technologies with over 20 different sports including practice sessions, leagues and competitions.

For More Information, contact Florida Special Olympics at 915 Don Wickham Drive in Clermont, Florida 34711 near South Lake Hospital, phone: 352-243-9536, email SherryWheelock@SOFL.org. Visit: http://www.specialolympicsusa.org and follow them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/specialolympicsflorida.



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