Lorenzo Aceves remembers walking around Los Angeles as a tourist during the 1984 Summer Olympics. He was hoping to get a glimpse of the action and the atmosphere inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but to no avail. Fast-forward 31 years later, now as a father to tennis player and Special Olympics Southern California athlete Fabiola, and his journey came full circle on July 25 at the Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremonies in that very same stadium.
“Never was I thinking that I would be one of the fathers of the athletes representing the USA,” said Lorenzo, who got his daughter involved in the program three years ago.
In fact, it could have been a different delegation altogether. Lorenzo moved his family from Mexico to the United States after Fabiola completed junior high school. At that point, forget the game of tennis — a new language and culture to learn were already a handful to absorb.
But once Fabiola started to show progress through tutoring, Lorenzo said, two girls introduced her to the sport and he put his daughter in Special Olympics.
Fabiola said the learning has only just begun, particularly after the experience of interacting with various athletes representing 165 countries.
“I can still learn from other people, too,” the 27-year-old from Montclair said matter-of-factly. Among the other “very cool” highlights she added was seeing First Lady Michelle Obama for the first time.
For Lorenzo, the Games go beyond the language barriers and colors on a uniform. He said it’s about the team, the competition, and the honor.
As a parent who gleefully recalls his own brief brush with the Olympic spirit and the impact it had on him, Lorenzo said he’s “the No. 1 fan” when Fabiola is on the court. “Sometimes when she plays, she’s like a butterfly,” Lorenzo said. “She puts in a lot of courage. I’m walking on the clouds.”