By Christian Barel
As a child, Michael Roth was known for his magnetizing persona. At the age of 11, during a family trip to the Grand Canyon, he easily made friends with bystanders and would introduce them to his parents.
There is something about Michael that can’t be missed. No matter what room he enters, there always at least one person who gravitates toward his ineffable charm.
“Michael is outgoing,” said Bob Roth, Michael’s father. “We used to say he’d be a used car salesman or a politician when he grows up.”
It is not surprising that after 16 years as a Special Olympics athlete, he became even more outgoing in the process.
His friendly demeanor comes in handy when playing with his tennis partner, Heidi Sand. Together they make a good mixed doubles team. When Heidi is up front, Michael insures he is behind to support his fellow teammate. The pair recently claimed a gold medal at the 2017 Fall Games, and in 2018 will be the lone tennis players from Southern California to compete at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.
“She’s a good partner, we’ve been partners for seven years now,” Michael said. “She likes me as a partner because I’m a competitor as well.”
This will be a major experience for Michael and his family. It will be his first time playing at the national level and staying in Seattle. His training will begin after the first of the year. For now, he is looking forward to the games, parties and meeting new people.
Michael is also an exemplary athlete on his own. His introduction to Special Olympics was through swimming, but he’s since delved into other sports such as bocce, bowling and golf. He even holds a third degree black belt and a brown belt in different forms of Japanese martial arts. If asked which sport is his favorite, tennis and golf would top his list.
“I just like to play. I enjoy it,” Michael said. “It’s entertainment.”