By Peter Tkac
John Ngo is a Special Olympics athlete from Southern California, a place he has lived his entire life. It’s also the region he will be representing in the upcoming USA Games for the very first time. He has played a variety of sports throughout his life but currently loves competing in tennis and bocce.
Tennis is a sport John has been competing in for a long time, going back over 12 years. “I like to move around while playing tennis,” says John. “It helps keep my whole body energized.” To help prepare for the USA Games, he has been practicing stretches for an hour or two at a time, working on both his service and return game.
Bocce, on the other hand, is a more recent passion of John’s, one that he has been playing for the past 4 years. “I like to compete in bocce, as it is similar to bowling,” John explains, alluding to the rolling skillset needed in both sports. This opportunity to participate in new events is what John loves, saying how “you can always try different sports when you are in Special Olympics.”
John’s desire to take on new events speaks directly to the type of competitor he is. He is looking forward to bringing this energy to his matches at the USA Games. “I’ve heard a lot of great things about the experience,” John describes, adding too that he’s ready for the competition.
As one of the more experienced members of the team, John says he likes to help guide his younger teammates in their matches to help them both be successful and have fun. “I try to give them advice on their serves, for example, and how to play their opponents.”
What sets John apart as an athlete is not just what he does on the court, but what he does afterwards as well. To John, the most important part of Special Olympics is showing great sportsmanship to his opponents. “I always try to say positive things about how they are playing, and what my teammates are doing,” John says. “At the end, you always congratulate them and tell them they played a good game.”
This type of comradery has helped John make a number of friends throughout his time as an athlete. “I love to meet other people through competing and sportsmanship,” John expresses. “You can always make new friends when you’re in Special Olympics.”
John believes inclusion is important for all, and that everybody should be given the opportunity to compete just as he has. “In Special Olympics, anybody with disabilities is accepted,” he says. John is excited to meet more athletes at future events, and hopes they are ready for the competition, just as he will be.