Aktion Club Special Olympic Winter Games

Special Olympics Georgia hosted the Indoor Winter Games in Cobb County on the weekend of January 27-29. After being canceled the three previous years due to the pandemic, the annual gymnastics competition was back in full swing at the Cobb Gymnastics Center.

SM&P’s Victoria Turney, client relations director, put in a full morning of cheering on the athletes and assisting where needed. “Giving back to the athletes warms your heart and gets the day started off right,” said Victoria, who has been working with the Special Olympics Cobb County gymnastics team for more than seven years.

An air of exhilaration spread through the stands and the gym floor, but no one was more excited than the athletes. Forty of them, all hoping to win gold, competed on the vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise.

Darby Parker, for one, loves participating in Special Olympics with all her friends from the gym. “She trains so hard, gets a little nervous,” said her mom, Manya, “but always has the best time of her life. This year was extra special. She rose to her best competition level, competing in all events. Her Gold All-Around medal made her feel so accomplished.” And she was!

Susan Rudd, mother of Olympian Dasha Randolph, said, “The Special Olympics community has been a game changer for Dasha. She has found an outlet to express herself and fit in without having to worry about being laughed at or overlooked. Dasha absolutely loves competition time when she can showcase all of the skills that she CAN do!”

Dasha takes great pride in being part of a team and the comradery that goes along with that. “Knowing that she is surrounded by coaches who hold her responsible and accountable for what she is capable of and push her ever-so-gently beyond her comfort zone has given her so many growth opportunities,” said Susan. “The Special Olympics events and family have really helped Dasha continue reaching goals and milestones physically and emotionally that we honestly never knew she was capable of! She has proven to all of us on more than one occasion that she’s rather unstoppable!”

“I love working with my Special Olympics friends,” said Dasha. “We are like a family. Our coaches require us to practice as hard as we can so that we can be our very best. We all love to win medals when we compete, but we all know that it is really just about doing our personal best.”

Dasha admitted, though, that she does get very nervous at every competition “Because of my disability, I’m used to falling quite a bit,” she said. “My friends even call me The Gravity Checker! But, I never ever like falling when I’m competing. It’s the one thing I’m always nervous about! But, even when I do fall, my Special Olympics family is always there to cheer me on because they know that gravity is working as it should be, and I’ve done the best I can!”

Victoria concluded the day by emceeing the awards ceremony with her usual enthusiasm. Family and friends of the Olympiads from throughout the state witnessed the athletes receive 34 gold medals, 25 silver,15 bronze, and two fourth-place recognitions, all presented in Olympic style.

Darby and Dasha cannot wait for the next games. And neither can the rest of us. Congrats, athletes!