By Christian Barel
There is no challenge that Rebecca Nerney can’t overcome. In 45 years as a Special Olympics athlete, she’s honed her skillset and built upon her confidence as an athlete and individual.
At the eager age of 8, she began training and competing in Special Olympics after a teacher introduced her to the organization. As an introduction, she started with track and field, winning her first medal in a 200-meter race at UCLA. Eventually, she branched off into other sports, such as volleyball.
When she is not competing, Rebecca is busy working as a crew member for the AMC Theatres at Downtown Disney. There, she is given the roles of cleaning, taking ticket stubs and greeting guests. She also finds the time for her 18-year-old horse, Illusion, as her favorite sport to practice is horseback riding.
Rebecca doesn’t let her intellectual disability hinder her daily life. In fact, through determination, she was able to prove to bullies, doctors and everyone that she can do anything—and she does.
“Most of the kids thought I couldn’t do anything,” Rebecca recalled. “But I proved to them, and the doctors, how well I can function with an intellectual disability.”
Her continuous perseverance and drive was recognized, as she was recently named the 2018 Betty Belden Palmer Outstanding Athlete honoree in Orange County. She will be presented the award at The Heart of a Champion – Special Olympics on Parade fundraiser in Irvine on April 21, 2018.
Although, for Rebecca, Special Olympics is about more than just the medals and honor. It’s about the friendship on and off the courts, too. Similar to her coaches, she’s always supporting her team members, telling them to remain calm and take deep breaths. Her sportsmanship and tenacity have helped her amass about 400 medals, but it has also gained her just as many friends.
“I made a lot of new friends,” Rebecca said. “I am very proud of being in Special Olympics.”