This last week of 2017, we will take a look at some of the moments that define the movement here at Special Olympics Southern California. There were so many, but we are attempting to give you the “Best of 2017.”
Today, on Christmas Day, we start with this amazing moment on the track, as told by board member John Peetz. It is a story of determination, perseverance, a cheering crowd and tears.
“During the 2017 Summer Games, as a board member, I was afforded the great privilege to award medals in athletics (track and field). This year the medals were awarded within the oval track itself, so for the first time for me, I had an opportunity to watch the races in between awards ceremonies.
“The most notable race I watched was an 800-meter run. One of the athletes, Michael Garcia of San Gabriel Valley, clearly had to exert maximum effort to stay on his feet and maintain a pace. At the 400-meter mark, it became clear that he was going to find it difficult to complete the race, given the amount of effort he needed to exert to stay upright and move forward. The crowd became very engaged, and he was determined to finish.
“As he rounded the final turn, he found it very difficult to continue. But the determination on his face indicated that he was going to finish the race one way or another. He used every ounce of energy to make it to the finish line. As the rules dictate, no one assisted him until he was across the finish line, although medical help was there to ensure it was safe not to intervene until he had finished. When he crossed the finish line, he collapsed. Appropriate aid was given and he was fine. When it was clear he was OK, the crowd went crazy.
“I had just witnessed the most courageous, determined effort I had ever seen at the Games, or anywhere else, for that matter.
“As luck would have it, I was his award presenter some 30 minutes later. As I walked up to him, I told him that the level of determination he showed was a shining example for all of us. He began to cry. So, then, did I. This was probably the most moving moment for me in my 10 years with the movement.”
Follow Special Olympics Southern California throughout the final week of 2017 for more of the best moments from the year. Moments included an undefeated season by the LA Galaxy Unified Team, a first pitch at Dodger Stadium, an introduction to flag football thanks to the Los Angeles Rams, and some “firsts” throughout Southern California. Follow on Twitter and Instagram @SOSoCal or on Facebook at SpecialOlympics.SoCal.