For two Christian Reformed athletes, the 2010 National Special Olympics in Lincoln, Neb., were a dream come true.
Maika Boswell, 18, a member of Hope Christian Reformed Church in Oak Forest, Ill., was chosen to play on the Illinois Women’s Basketball Team.
Larry John “L.J.” Wierema, a member and usher at Western Springs (Ill.) CRC, proudly brought home four silver and gold medals for various weightlifting events.
Boswell, who plays point guard, said that going to the national Special Olympics was her dream come true. “It’s not about winning, but having fun. We all played together and scored,” she said.
Boswell has been part of Special Olympics for five years. She trains at Elim Christian School in Palos Heights, Ill. Her coach, Kris Owak, said, “Maika is a huge team player who also enables other players to strive for their best! I can’t say enough about what a positive difference she’s made to our Elim team and what an honor it was that she could represent the Elim Ladies at the 2010 National Special Olympics.”
Basketball is Maika’s favorite sport, but she also participates in the Special Olympics sports of swimming and snowshoeing. Her other interests include art and cooking.
She is also an avid Chicago Bulls fan. When a Bulls season ticket holder learned that she was selected for the National Games, she was given 12th row tickets to a game and the opportunity to meet Ben Gordon, a player she especially admires.
Wierema was proud to wear his four large, shiny medals when he returned to his ushering duties at church.
At 5' 4", 144 lbs (162 cm, 65 kg), L.J. earned medals in several powerlifting events, including a gold medal in bench press with a lift of 170.9 lbs (77.5 kg). He also took home silver medals in the dead lift event and for his combined lifts.
Despite undergoing open-heart surgery at age five and living with Down Syndrome his entire life, L.J. has been lifting weights as a hobby for several years. He also works as a utility clerk for a local grocery store chain, building his strength by packing grocery bags and pushing shopping carts.
As a gold medal winner, L.J.’s name will go into a drawing for a chance to compete in the Special Olympics World Summer Games to take place in Athens, Greece in 2011.
L.J.’s mother, Nancy, is very proud of her son’s accomplishments, and said she was especially pleased that his fellow church members rallied around L.J. to help celebrate his achievements.
When asked how it felt to be so warmly received in his church, L.J. said, simply, “Happy.”
Three thousand athletes from 48 states participated. Special Olympics offers more than 30 Olympic individual and team events for athletes with intellectual disabilities. The motto of Special Olympics is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”