By Quyen Nguyen
Mark Uyeda, a decorated swimmer and bowler, has been a part of Special Olympics Southern California for 18 years and this will be his first time competing at USA Games. When he received news that he was selected to represent Southern California at the Games, he was humbled and excited to travel to Florida. During the competition, he will be participating in the freestyle and relay races. “I’m most excited about being with my fellow athletes, flying to Orlando, and I hope to win a medal. I also want to see Chip and Dale because they are my favorite Disney characters,” he said.
Mark was raised in Chula Vista, California by his parents who always encouraged him to explore different activities. Before Mark was a part of Special Olympics of Southern California, he faced multiple roadblocks and continues to overcome the challenges and stereotypes associated with having an intellectual disability. Mark was considered severely handicapped when he was younger, but he shattered barriers and surprised those who underestimated him. Now, he is getting ready to travel to Florida to compete at USA Games with his fellow teammates.
Outside Special Olympics, traveling is a big part of Mark’s life. He has visited places like Texas, Canada, and Japan, where he was able to experience new foods and cultures. Mark enjoys trying new things and is always willing to step outside of his comfort zone. Exploring new places has given him the chance to express his personality and now, he is comfortable complimenting or talking to other athletes and coaches.
Mark has found his second family with Special Olympics Southern California and his teammates and coaches have helped him become a better athlete because they continue to push him to his fullest potential. With the determination to be the best athlete, Mark trains by swimming almost every other day. He thrives on competitive sports and his family is always there for him every step of the way. He shared that “Special Olympics has helped me set goals, make new friends, and better myself”.
Mark still has many goals he wants to accomplish. In the upcoming future, he wants to have a job and participate in the World Games. He also plans to move in with his new roommate.