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Fraizer family making an impact

July 28, 2010

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Richard Frazier, Ronnia Frazier, Eli Frazier- North Carolina

Photo and story by: Kaitlyn Burke, University of Nebraska- Lincoln

Frazier Family Making an Impact

The Frazier family came from halfway across the country to volunteer at the power lifting venue for the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Frazier family’s passion for the Special Olympics began over 20 years ago when Richard and Ronnia met in college. “We got involved with Special Olympics in college in North Carolina. The college promoted the event and so we began volunteering. My husband then took a job that required him to work at the State Games in Greenville and then it all snowballed from there,” Ronnia said.

That snowball has only gotten bigger and a lot has changed since their first experience at the State Games in North Carolina. Richard has been the technical delegate for power lifting at the regional, state, national and international level. In addition to working regional and state levels, Richard was the technical delegate for the inaugural USA National Games in Ames, Iowa and worked internationally for the Dublin, Ireland, Shanghai, China and next year’s Athens, Greece Special Olympics world games. His wife Ronnia and their son, Eli travel with him and volunteer as officials for the power lifting competitions. Eli started getting involved with Special Olympics five years ago, “When I was younger my parents got me started. I was the tag along, but I fell in love with it and just keep coming back for more,” expressed Eli.

For the Frazier family it isn’t about travel or the praise of other people. Rather it is about the athletes and what they do. With a tear in her eye Ronnia stated, “It’s the spirit. It’s the spirit of love, teamwork and everybody coming together; nobody’s grouchy, everyone is happy and everyone comes together, it’s beautiful, it’s a yes I can attitude.” Richard noted that, “We enjoy what we do here. We always feel great because once you experience the enjoyment of the athletes it’s something that will always be near and dear to my heart. I enjoy working with the athletes, coaches and other workers and volunteers.”

The Fraziers are a unique and inspiring family. Instead of having a family trip to Hawaii or California, they spend their vacations working and volunteering for the Special Olympics. “It feels very good to work together as a family,” Richard said, “We do lots of things together, but all of us working together for the same goal and same purpose is really meaningful to me.”

“This truly makes you appreciate what you have” Ronnia describes. “Sometimes it’s so easy to say I can’t do this or maybe I don’t want to get up in the morning, but when you look at somebody who has to put fourth so much more effort, and then you do too. My experience with Special Olympics has changed my life.”



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First Special Olympics Wyoming power lifter competes in Games

July 27, 2010

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Coleman enters stage before competing in the bench press event held at Kimball Hall.

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Coleman poses with his coach in between power lifting events on Thursday.

Photos and story by: Alanna Nunn, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

He’s a John Wayne fan and likes to watch baseball. He works at Village Inn in Casper, Wyoming and has done so for the past 20 years. He’s 67 years old and a power lifter in the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

Fred Coleman began his power lifting career in 2004 when the Special Olympics introduced the sport to the state of Wyoming. It was then that Fred became the first Special Olympics power lifting athlete in his state.

Coleman has participated in the Special Olympics for over 30 years. Aside from power lifting, he also competes in cross country skiing during the Special Olympics Winter Games. He has been training for the power lifting competition for about 16 weeks, and was fully prepared coming into the USA National Games. When asked what his favorite part about the event was, Coleman replied, “It would have to be the dead lift.”

Coleman says he has enjoyed a lot of things about his trip to Nebraska. He competed in the bench press and dead lift competitions on Thursday. The power lifting events were held at Kimball Hall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.



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Powerlifting — 7/25 PM session

Alabama power lifter with visual impairment takes home four golds

Video by Balsam Ali, UNL

Powerlifting event special for all involved

By Balsam Ali

After the weights were put away and the medals awarded, all that remained for the volunteers and officials involved with Thursday’s powerlifting competition were happy memories.

For some, that’s more than enough.

“It was definitely worth it just got to get be on stage and experience those moments with them,” said volunteer Sarah Wick. “Just feeling the excitement when they made their lifts made it something I will never forget.”

While the powerlifting event at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games is driven by the performance of the athlete, the success of the event relies on the efforts of a number of volunteers. And it isn’t just those on stage helping with the competition. It’s the people backstage supervising the athletes, and the greeters in the family lounge serving water and getting to know the athletes families.

Wick, who spots the athletes in their lift attempts, said overall it’s a special event for all involved.

“No matter what you are doing it’s been a special personal experience,” Wick said. “Just getting to meet these athletes is an experience in itself, and knowing we are helping to keep the event running makes you proud of the time and energy put in.”

In addition to the competition, volunteers have also found enjoyment in the nightly award ceremonies. Volunteers and significant contributors to the games dole out the medals as an announcer reads off the names to a soundtrack of inspiring music. Even celebrities like former American Idol contestant Michael Sarver made a trip to the venue to hand out awards to the athletes.

The emotional atmosphere of the medal ceremony is the reason Wick said she helped out with the event. She witnessed the medal ceremony the day before she was scheduled and said she decided to stick around and help out because it was such a moving experience.

“Seeing them posing on stage and dancing in celebration is an emotional moment,” Wick said. “It made the work more than worth the time.”

Teamwork

Video and photos by Balsam Ali, UNL

Powering Through: The Story of Matt Jacobson

Video by Pat Radigan, UNL



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North Dakota power lifter takes home three golds

July 23, 2010

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Powerlifter Ben Wahlstrand celebrates his gold medal on the podium after the competition.

Photo and story by: Emily Sallach, UNL

The only thing bigger than Ben Wahlstrand’s fan following was the smile on his face. 

Wahlstrand, from Grand Forks, N.D., had 16 fans with him on Tuesday morning at Kimball Hall.  These fans were friends and family from five different states.  Some family members traveled all the way from California and Arizona to watch him compete this week, and many other fans watched him from the live online stream. 

Wahlstrand has been involved with the Special Olympics for eight years but competed at a national level this year for the first time.  He started out in Special Olympics playing basketball and in the past three years found his talent for power lifting.

Wahlstrand’s family members could barely find the words to express how proud they are of him.  They talked about how he was an over-achiever and is always pushing to do better.  He holds two jobs and was the keynote speaker at his high school graduation.

When Wahlstrand was asked to compete at the 2010 Special Olympic USA National Games, he said he “humbly accepted” the opportunity. 

He said he likes power lifting because “it makes me feel good inside, but family is what really makes me a success here.  They give me something to believe in …”

Wahlstrand will travel back to North Dakota with not just one gold medal but two.  He collected a gold medal in bench press and dead lift, while his teammate Shale Erickson was right behind him with a silver in the same events. This also meant Walhstrand took home the gold for the combined bench and dead lift, raising his total to three on the day.

Wahlstrand said he enjoyed his week in Lincoln at the USA National Games and loved getting to watch the other athletes compete and, in his words, “do amazing things.” 

He credits his trainer Adam Sorum for getting him started in power lifting and Will Kuslerr for coaching him at the state-level games. 



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A family affair

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Team Delaware’s David Hill blew away spectators as he took on over 500 pounds in the dead weight portion of the competition.
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Photos and story by NaTasha Rollerson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Power lifter David Hill of Newark Delaware poses with his biggest fan in the stands, his mother Corrinne Pearson. David has been power lifting for four years in local competitions.

“David has Landau-Kleffner Syndrome (LKS) but, he has come so far in his speech that you can barely tell he has an intellectual disability” Says Corrinne.

LKS is a rare disorder that appears sometime during early childhood. A major affect of this disorder is the gradual or sudden loss of the ability to understand and use spoken language.

“David as a child could not even tell me he wanted a glass of water. People told me that I should look into David learning how to use sign language. One day David’s little sister Sara was going to touch an iron and David yelled No Sara Hot! That is when I knew he was capable of speaking and I refused to cripple my son” said Corrinne.

David started to develop his own language to communicate. His sister picked up on this language as well. Sara had to be sent to tutors to break the language she used to communicate with her brother and learn English. David saw his sister’s determination to learn how to speak and this is what motivated him to learn English.

David is now 26 years old and speaking very clearly. He is a gold medalist in tennis, basketball, bowling, and now powerlifting.

When David was asked what was the most challenging part about competing in the 2010 Special Olympics USA National games he said,

“The kilos were different, the squats were deeper, and it was heavy!!”

After the National Games David plans to continue power lifting with a personal trainer, performing in local meets in Delaware, and if it is possible he would love to compete in Worlds.



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Power lifter wows the crowd

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Timmareo Woods from Alabama, a power lifter who is blind, lifts 485 lbs. in the dead lift competition on Thursday, July 22.
Photo by Chelsey Criner, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Timmareo Woods, an Alabama weightlifter who is blind, has been power lifting for the last four-and-a-half years. He attends the Helen Keller School and will celebrate his 20th birthday on Friday, July 23. He is a fan of the Atlanta Braves, Gospel music and whichever college football team is winning at the time.

On Thursday, July 22, he lifted 402 lbs. in the squat competition, 257.4 lbs. in the bench press and 485 lbs. in the dead lift competition.



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Nebraska power lifter posts personal best

July 22, 2010

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Wednesday was a monumental day for powerlifter Gregory Blankman and his family. Blankman, 24, of Plattsmouth, Neb., brought home four medals at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games. In the squat competition, he placed second with a lift of 275.6 pounds. This lift also was his personal best. In the bench press competition, Blankman pressed 181.9 pounds. In the deadlift event, he lifted 314.2 pounds. In the all around triple competition, Blankman brought home the silver medal.

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Gregory Blankman receives his silver medal from Michael Kemp, executive board member of Special Olympics Nebraska.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Gregory Blankman displays his powerlifting pose at the awards ceremony.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln



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Power lifters celebrate medals

July 21, 2010

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For more photos from the ceremony, click the link below

Powerlifter Allison Tarzwell takes a second to flex her muscles after taking home a silver at the Tuesday afternoon medal ceremony.

Photo: Pat Radigan, UNL



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The games are a family affair for the Wattersons

Nick Watterson

Missouri power lifter Nick Watterson receives another gold medal on Monday at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

Photo and Story by: Corinne Burger, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“Go for the Gold” yelled 26 year old Missourian athlete Nick Watterson as he accepted his third gold medal in power lifting at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games on Monday.

Nick has been involved in Special Olympics for almost 10 years, participating in basketball, bowling, softball, swimming and his favorite, power lifting. After eight years of competing, Nick achieved his goal of gold this week declaring, “The hard work pays off.”

The Special Olympics have become a family affair for the Wattersons from Springfield, Mo. Nick’s father, David, is involved in the organization as Nick’s day-to-day power lifting coach and the youngest Watterson children, Noel and Michael, have competed in the Special Olympics Unified Sports program for softball, bowling and basketball.

In addition, Nick’s brother Jonathan is currently the coach for the Missouri basketball team at the USA National Games in Lincoln. Jonathan attributes his involvement as a coach to his brother, saying, “Nick is my personal motivational speaker. He’s a daily inspiration to me.”

Not only has the organization had an impact on the Wattersons individually, but their time spent working together also has had a huge impact on their relationships with each other. “The experience has really brought us so much closer as a family,” says Nick’s mother, Cindy Watterson.

The whole family feels blessed to be able to come together and experience the games and see the athletes compete, they said. Knowing how hard his own son works to be able to compete, David commends all the athletes at the USA National Games. “It’s total hard work and dedication. All these athletes should be honored for what they’ve done just to get here. Special Olympics opens up a whole new world to special kids with the same heart and aspirations of being a champion.”

Cheering

Jonathan, Michael, and Noel Watterson cheer on their brother as their mother, Cindy, captures the moment on film.

Family

Front: Noel Watterson, Cindy Watterson, coach Eddie Blaylock of St. Louis. Back: Jonathan Watterson, Nick Watterson, Michael Watterson and David Watterson.



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Power lifters push their limits

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Team Nebraska member Gregory Blankman, 24, from Plattsmouth, Neb., competes in the dead lift competition. Gregory had a personal best Wednesday in the squat competition.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Dylan Blommer from Team North Carolina competes in the power lifting competition Wednesday.

Photo: Amanda Schutz, University of Nebraska-Lincoln



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