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Barbara Wilson excited about USA National Games

June 28, 2010


Special Olympian Barbara Wilson (bottom, second from left) of Venice, Fla.,underwent foot surgery only a week ago. Yet today, with her foot propped on an ottoman and her hands resting comfortably on her chest, she offers a warm, friendly greeting.

Her short haircut accentuates her kind eyes and warm smile. She gently scolds her dog, Lucky, to be quiet during the interview.

Wilson is so excited about the Special Olympics that she jumps right in: “I have learned how to get along well with others, have learned about limitations and differences and have found that I do have value.”

The motto she lives by: “Quitters never win, but winners never quit.”

Failure does not exist in Wilson’s world.  Her swimming coach, Dr. Greg Rotole of Sarasota, Fla., said she refused to give up even after being disqualified four times during this year’s training. She was offered easier competitions in which she would have a better chance of winning, but she refused and told her coach that she would continue to try the more difficult competitions until she won.

“She looks failure straight in the eye and says, ‘I want to win,’” Rotole said.

June Wilson always knew her daughter had spunk. Ever since Barb was born, she has clenched her fists tightly when she gets excited or determined about something. Her mother smiles proudly as Barb is being interviewed. “The thing that makes Barb unique is that she will try everything. She tackles whatever she needs to tackle. Those are skills you can’t teach.”

June Wilson’s hope for her daughter is that she will always continue to be happy and accept herself for who she is.

Barb Wilson’s also works to motivate others to never give up.

At least an hour before her own swim practice starts, she shows up to act as cheerleader for the Cardinal Mooney High School’s swim team practice. If team members ever feel frustrated or unmotivated, she encourages them to push themselves and reach their goals. She does whatever it takes, even getting in the pool and swimming right along with them.

In return, the members of Cardinal Mooney’s swim team recently honored “Coach Barbara” with a jacket, visor and card for her dedication to their team.

Wilson remembers what initially motivated her to reach her own goals.

She was watching the Munich Olympics and saw that Mark Spitz had won seven gold medals in swimming. She decided that she was going to beat his record and win eight medals.

Recalling that day now, Wilson smiles. Sure enough, she accomplished her goal and now holds eight medals.

Wilson, born in 1964, grew up in Washington County, Md. She has competed in the Special Olympics since 1982. She started in the Special Olympics Maryland, went on to compete in the Special Olympics Pennsylvania from 1992 to 1996 and has competed in the Special Olympics Florida since 1996. She has received numerous accolades for her accomplishments, including her motivational skills, community involvement, outreach training programs, lobbying efforts and leadership conferences.

When she’s not competing or motivating others, Wilson attends classes at The Loveland Center of Venice. She can choose her own curriculum, which allows her to pursue her passion for computer classes. At Loveland, she also conducts information tours for the public, serves as an AKtion Club officer and is a leader in Loveland’s Annual Follies at the Venice Little Theater.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She is also an aspiring musician and has been learning to play the guitar she saved up to buy for herself recently.

Her father cranks up the stereo in the background during the interview while Wilson plays air guitar to a Johnny Cash song. She said her favorite song to play is “Amazing Grace.” The next item on her agenda is finding the guitar version of “Shout.”

Rotole, her swimming coach, said  if he could describe Wilson in one statement, it would be that she views herself just like everyone else and refuses to think of herself as disabled.

Given her many accomplishments, one can hardly say she’s just like everyone else.

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