Justin Olds and Miguel McCoy, two 19-year-olds from Maple Valley, won gold during the 2018 Special Olympics in Seattle.
Justin competed in swim and Miguel competed in golf.
According to Justin’s mom, Brigette Olds, Justin received gold in a relay freestyle event, and then got bronze in the 25 meter freestyle, and he also received fifth place in another swimming event.
Jennifer McCoy, Miguel’s mom, said Justin golfed for three days and at the end of those days, Olympic officials averaged out his scores. He scored enough points to bring home the gold.
Justin said his favorite part about this whole experience was not winning, but getting to be on a team.
Miguel agreed with Justin.
“Mostly just being with the team doing all kinds of crazy things (and) getting along with each other, it’s been a blast,” Miguel said
According to their parents, Justin and Miguel have grown up together and have both been participating in the Special Olympics since they were 8 years old.
Both have also been doing their sports — swimming and golfing — since they were little, their parents said.
Justin said he likes “all the things,” when it comes to swimming. Miguel agreed and said he liked every aspect of golf, too.
Miguel added there are some hard parts to golf as well.
“I’d say the hardest part was getting the ball into the hole,” Miguel said. “I guess I got to work with what I got.”
According to Jennifer, not long ago, Maple Valley did not have the Special Olympics program that they have today.
“For golf and swimming, we didn’t have those here in our community (Maple Valley). When the boys started the only Special Olympics we had in our community was sponsored through the school district, but then as our community grew and parents got involved, we all decided we wanted to increase the different sports that were available to the students and athletes,” Jennifer said. “Also to increase the age because when they turn 21 they wouldn’t be able to play for Tahoma anymore. So the parents all got together and created an organization that expanded the sports. Miguel did swim for another team, so after he was swimming for that other team then we were like, ‘Lets do it in Maple Valley.’”
Without the parents’ efforts, Justin and Miguel may not have been able to go to the Special Olympics in the first place because their sports, and other sports, were not part of the original Special Olympics program.
Jennifer said Justin and Miguel were some of the first athletes to participate in the new teams that were created.
To fund these teams, Jennifer said the Maple Valley Special Athletes, a nonprofit, sponsors the teams. She said Kevin Olds, Justin’s dad, sits on the board and that she used to as well.
“We’re just parents that want to help make sure the athletes have every opportunity to be involved in the Special Olympics,” Jennifer said.
To get chosen to be on the Special Olympics Washington team, each athlete has to be picked and be able to withstand being away from their families for the entirety of the Olympic games. They also have to qualify athletically as well.
“(It’s) an honor (to have Miguel and Justin qualify) because there’s hundreds of kids, thousands of kids, that qualify for (the Special Olympics),” Brigette said.
Kevin said Justin is considered a category 1 swimmer for the USA games, and when the recruiters for the Special Olympics were choosing who to bring onto the USA team, they only choose two category 1 male swimmers in the entire state of Washington.
Jennifer said Miguel was one of three golfers in Washington to be picked.
“It was awesome, he worked really hard,” Jennifer said.
To see their kids participate in the Special Olympics, each parent said it was an amazing experience for not only their kids, but also for the parents as well.
“I think it’s great because, Justin has three other siblings, and he’s got opportunities that the others probably don’t ever get. It’s kind of nice because there’s things that they do, that he’ll never be able to do, so it’s a nice for him as well,” Brigette said.
Jennifer said this was also a great way for the athletes to meet a bunch of new people.
“Each state gets these beautiful enamel pins and then they trade. So Miguel got, I don’t know, a dozen of Washington ones. And then they trade. It’s just a way for them to meet people from other states,” Jennifer said.
Brigette said her favorite part about the Special Olympics is that it’s not just about winning, it’s about sportsmanship and supporting everyone, no matter what team they are on.
“One of the best races I think of all the days we were there, it was individual medley where they do butterfly, back stroke, breast stroke, freestyle, and one of the athletes, when he was doing the butterfly, he kept swimming, but he wasn’t moving,” Brigette explained.
Finally, he started to make some progress again, but the other (swimmer) finished the race. By the time he finished, the racer got two minutes and he got about six minutes, but when he finished, everyone in the stands — the athletes, the spectators, everyone — was standing and applauding him.”
Overall, Justin and Miguel said they had a great time during the Special Olympics. Justin said he really enjoyed meeting everyone and Miguel agreed with him.
Both said they want to continue with their sports in the future.
“I think it’s a good way to pass the time,” Miguel said.
To see pictures of Justin and Miguel from the Special Olympic Games, and other athletes, you can go to https://www.facebook.com/pg/SpecialOlympicsWa/posts/?ref=page_internal.