MADISON (WKOW) -- Three Madison athletes and a coach from Fitchburg are now training for the second ever Special Olympics USA National Games, set for July 18-23, 2010. The games will be held in Lincoln, Nebraska, and 64 Wisconsin athletes will be competing.
Ann Hellmuth, Kamala Gesteland, and Emily Datta will join more than 3,000 athletes from across the country at the 2010 National Games.
"I love being in Special Olympics because I feel part of a team of friends, Special Olympics makes me feel like a star," said Ann Hellmuth, a Special Olympics athlete with 15 years experience competing in aquatics, basketball, bocce, bowling, golf, volleyball, cross country skiing and speed skating. Hellmuth will be competing in aquatics.
She attended the National Games in 1999 and 2001, winning gold medals at two World Games. She also carried the torch during a Wisconsin route for the U.S. Olympics.
"Special Olympics has brought me lots of new friends, sports and exciting events and successes," Hellmuth said.
She works at Creative Learning Daycare as an assistant teacher. Hellmuth enjoys making art work as a hobby. She recently sold her first painting at an art exhibit.
Kamala Gesteland started training and competing in Special Olympics more than 20 years ago. She has trained and competed in tennis, volleyball, speed skating, and aquatics. Next summer, she will be able to play tennis at the national level. Gesteland enjoys the physical benefits of competing.
"Special Olympics keeps me active and gives me something to look forward to," she said.
Over the past three years, Emily Datta has participated in Special Olympics basketball, bowling and tennis. In 2008, she won first place at the State Tennis Tournament. This year she took a second place medal from the tournament. She'll compete in tennis at the National Games in July.
"Special Olympics has been a very positive influence," she said, adding that it's "very exciting to have an opportunity to participate in National Games."
Datta works as a Nurses' Assistant at Wynwood in Madison. In addition to playing sports, she enjoys playing music.
Ginny Theisen is one of 22 coaches selected for Team Wisconsin's 2010 National Games bid. Theisen, a teacher for the Madison School District, will train the tennis team. The 2010 team includes four athletes from across the state and will compete against 3,000 athletes from across the nation.
Theisen first started volunteering for Special Olympics 22 years ago. She says she witnessed the impact of Special Olympics on her daughter.
"[She] has learned how to be part of a team and how to reach for goals which otherwise would not be possible for her," Theisen said.
Theisen has also coached aquatics, athletics, basketball, and bowling and says, "The experiences have made her aware of the potential which special athletes have…[which should be] developed and shared."
In 2003, Theisen attended the 2003 World Games and says she is thrilled to have another chance to share the Special Olympics experience with athletes and coaches from around the country and around the world.
During the six-day National Games, Team Wisconsin athletes will compete in aquatics, athletics, bocce ball, bowling, golf, gymnastics, power lifting, tennis, basketball, and soccer.
Team Wisconsin will take part in an official training camp from April 16-18. The 2010 USA National Games will kick off with the Opening Ceremonies which includes a Parade of Athletes, Lighting the Torch, entertainment, and 13 sporting events. Educational seminars will be offered to athletes and their families. Additional programming will also be available to increase public knowledge and understanding of the qualities and capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities.
For more information about Team Wisconsin, click here.
For more information about the National Games, click here.
For More information about Special Olympics, click here or call (800) 552-1324.