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Maryland Special Olympians Climb High

Dreams come true in Los Angeles

Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno’s Instagram selfie with Calvert County’s cheerleading team, the Calvert Starz, at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles.

Maryland Olympians swelled with power and pride in competition among 6,500 athletes from 165 countries at this summer’s Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.
    “I became a leader,” says Chris Dooley of Denton. In competition, the kayaker won a bronze medal in his 200-meter singles race.
    From beginning to end, the World Games thrilled the Eastern Shore athlete. Shaking First Lady Michelle Obama’s hand “was like a dream come true,” he said, and opening ceremonies were “breathtaking.”
    The Olympic experience was empowering as well as exhilarating. Chris has learned “to be around other athletes and take directions,” said his mother, Peggy Dooley.
    Learning to thrive in competition is part of the Special Olympics experience.
    With his friendly demeanor, cyclist Eddie Murphy of Queen Anne County did not grasp the entire concept of competition at the beginning of the week, according to his sister Alice Webb, who spoke on his behalf for this story. Now “he knows what a competition is,” she said. “He has gained athleticism and the ability to be a team player.”
    Murphy cycled to gold in his 500-meter time trial.
    Also cycling in these Olympic games was Alicia Gouge of Odenton. Gouge earned silver in her 1K Time Trial.
    “It was fun to come together and be in the same place,” she said. After the games, “I have felt more confident in myself.”
    Abby Reznick of Prince George’s County swam to four victories: Gold in the 100-meter Relay, Silver in the 200-meter Freestyle and Bronze in the 100-meter Backstroke. She also earned fourth place in the 100-meter Freestyle.
    Equestrian Ben Stevick of Howard County rode to Gold in two classes: Equestrian English Equitation and Equestrian Dressage.
    Calvert County’s cheerleading team, the Calvert Starz, went to Los Angeles this summer as well. “The Special Olympics World Games was an amazing experience to be a part of. The message of unity, acceptance and respect was well communicated through all of the events. I am so incredibly proud of my cheerleaders,” said Gayle Watterson, their coach.
    Their pride swelled with recognition. Eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno’s shout-out Instagram — a selfie of Ohno and the cheerleaders — had 975 likes at press time. Back in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan congratulated the team at the State House.