Special Olympics National recently wrapped up their national competition, with a Stanly athlete walking away with medals.
Former West Stanly High School swimmer Caleb Wilson won three silver medals at the 2022 Special Olympics USA in Orlando. Wilson swam in the 50-yard freestyle and backstroke events with a North Carolina relay team.
Wilson began competing with Special Olympics in 2015 and has reached state competition every year. He was one of eight swimmers representing North Carolina. He trained three to four times a week to prepare for the national competition.
Mark Rowles, who coached Wilson both at West and for Special Olympics, said swimming “is tough. It’s endurance. Just think of the bare necessities of each practice. You look down the eight inch wide line, swimming 25 yards and turning to swim 25 more. It’s monotonous.
“It’s so much practice,” added Rowles. “He did what he had to do and made it work.”
Being at ESPN Wide World of Sports for the opening ceremonies and swimming at the Rosen Aquatic Center, the coach added, “It’s beautiful and it’s all Caleb and all the other athletes deserve.”
Working with Caleb “has been a lot of fun. It has been challenging and rewarding more than anything to see someone who overcomes, surpasses and surpasses, defying your expectations. To be involved with him is a privilege.
Caleb’s mother, Heidi Mitchell, said that to her knowledge, Caleb is the only Stanly Special Olympics athlete to have competed in the US Games.
“It’s an honor to go to the USA Games. It is an honor to recognize his independence,” Mitchell said.
She added that part of going to national games is an interview process with the athlete, their family and local volunteers. Athletes must fly and stay alone in a hotel independently to participate in the national competition.
“It’s a very independent business…you have to have a level of independence to take care of your basic needs and he can,” Mitchell added of his son. “There’s more to (Special Olympics) than getting a medal and competing.”