By Melanie Barrios
Through sports, Special Olympics athletes build skills that will help them succeed—on the sports field and in the community. Just take a look at Jacob Marsalek.
Jacob is one impressive individual. At an age where most children are coming into their own, Jacob was already playing softball, bocce, volleyball, and golf and learning skills and the value of being a teammate. That does not mean he does not like the thrill of competing individually; in fact, he thrives in it!
“My favorite sport in Special Olympics is golfing because it’s a competitive sport, and you are competing with people at different levels of the sport. I love Special Olympics because you see a lot of different people from different areas. Sometimes you see people from different countries. That’s how I met my best buddy!”
For Jacob, playing sports has been a great way to shatter stereotypes about the skills and stamina of people with Down syndrome. While he has always felt his family’s full support and presence, the same cannot be said in the community. For Jacob’s entire life, people have underestimated him and his abilities, but that only fuels his drive.
When he’s not on the sports fields winning gold medals, Jacob works at “Heath” located in Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s food court. He began his journey at Cal Poly by working at the campus market. His infectious personality and his willingness to help students with their questions soon elevated him to working at different locations across the campus.
“My favorite part about my job is interacting with students and knowing how their day is going,” said Jacob. His goal is to leave a positive impact on everyone he meets, and while doing so, he is also changing attitudes everywhere he goes.
His positive and caring personality was instilled him in at a young age from his family. At Jacob’s tournaments and events, he can always find them in the stands and cheering for him. In fact, a few family members have joined the action on the field. Jacob’s brother coached basketball, and his cousin coached volleyball, which happens to be Jacob’s favorite team sport.
Jacob wants to remind people that people with Down syndrome have the same abilities as everyone else. They make take longer to do them, but that is okay. They try their best and their hardest. The great thing about Jacob is that he does not need to prove his abilities through words. He does so every day by his actions.