James Morrell has gained a spike in self-esteem since joining Special Olympics Southern California two years ago. The medals he’s amassed have helped serve as conversation starters.
But James’ new favorite topic is his selection to compete this summer at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.
“He has something exciting to talk to other people about when he sees them because everyone is very impressed that he was selected to be in the national games,” his mother Trina said.
“So he has a lot to talk about now in conversations.”
Training to compete in track and field events have also given James something to look forward to each week. The 22-year-old runs the 100-, 200-, 400- and 4×100-meter relay races in addition to the shotput. He prefers running events to field events.
In 2017, James collected both a gold and silver medal in the 400 and a pair of silvers in the shotput at separate competitions.
James will perform in all but relay at USA Games.
“It’s quite an honor and I can’t wait to go,” James said.
James’ goal each competition is to give an honest effort. That simple approach has proven to be effective, as he’s noticed an improvement in his strength and his times.
His time in the 200 improved by 0.71 seconds since his first year of competition.
The accomplishments don’t come without James’ preparation.
“He has himself on a regimen and he is doing push-ups and all kinds of really strenuous activities that he wasn’t doing regularly before,” Trina said. “He’s very determined to do his very best. That is something very exciting to see.”
James, who has autism, is one of two Special Olympics athletes in the family. He and his twin brother John compete in the San Gabriel Valley region. While they won’t be competing together in Seattle, John is expected to be in the stands to cheer his brother on.
Trina said Special Olympics is a “worthy cause” that “has changed our family life.”
“The money donated, I can see that it really goes into the athletes,” she said. “This is something that literally changes these athletes’ lives.”
“The whole family gets involved with it. We get very excited when our kids are out there competing, having a good time, making friends, bringing home awards, meeting the police officers who do the torch runs and fundraise. Also (it’s exciting) to see our kids have goals and how hard they work toward those goals.”