By Theresa Marthey
Preston County News & Journal
KINGWOOD, W.Va. — Most people will never know the dream of being able to walk into a stadium in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics while thousands of people chant U-S-A. But for Preston County athletes, that dream became an amazing reality.
Brandon Wilt of Brandonville and Chelsea Lansberry of Fellowsville represented Team USA in the Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles, California, from July 25 through August 2. Both agreed walking into the stadium during the opening ceremonies was overwhelming.
“Some people on the team were crying,” Lansberry said. “This was like nothing I have ever experienced.”
“It was loud,” Wilt said. “It was the most important day of my life, and someday in the future I will tell my nephews about it when they get older.”
Lansberry won a gold medal for team bowling, a silver in singles bowling and seventh place in doubles bowling.
“I knew my nana was watching over me when I won my gold (medal),” Lansberry said. “She is the reason I went to the games. I didn’t want to, but she told me to go.”
“Winning my gold medal,” Lansberry added. “I will never forget that. I shine it every night.”
Wilt came home with three sixth place finishes in his track and field events of shot-put, the 100-meter race and the 4×100 meter relay.
Both made friends they are not likely to forget and have plans to keep in touch.
“Meeting new people from other countries was cool,” Wilt said. “There were a lot that spoke English, but a lot didn’t. I did get some Malaysian money I brought home, and I have addresses from Team USA friends.”
Lansberry became good friends with a teammate from Louisiana, and they communicate back and forth a lot now. They both have the same types of special needs, and that is one reason why they are good friends.
“Her name is Courtney, we are like sisters now,” Lansberry said. “Both of us are 16 and part of the bowling team, but we have a lot in common. I am planning a trip to see her.”
Both athletes were excited to get back home to get a good home cooked meal.
“The food was really bad there was no flavor,” Lansberry said. “Rice was served with everything, and that was okay, but it was white plain rice.”
“There is nothing like a home-cooked meal from Preston County,” Lansberry continued. “We have good food.”
“The pizza was really awesome,” said Wilt. “I liked that a lot.
Angela Wilt, co-founder of the Preston County Special Olympics and Brandon’s mother, who attended the Olympics with Lansberry family, said the World Game had to cook for 4,500 athletes plus coaches and there were special diets that also had to be taken into consideration when preparing all the food.
“But I will admit, it was bland,” Angela said. “One night, they had family night, and we were able to choose between a vegetarian or Mexican meal. I choose the Mexican chicken wrap, and it was not as spicy as I am use to.”
Angela said the athletes were well taken care of during the games with interaction between the different delegations as well as health wise.
“There were translators for the athletes,” Angela said. “Along with the Healthy Athletes program that provided hearing tests, dental exams and vision exams to the athletes to name a few.”
“It was a really incredible experience for the parents also,” Angela said.
Brandon and Chelsea said they will remember the Olympics forever, but the one thing they will remember above all else weren’t connected the games at all.
“The three-story Walmart that has a moving stair to take your cart to the next floor,” Brandon said. “That was the coolest.”
The Special Olympics help individuals with intellectual disabilities overcome barriers through sports beginning at age 8. The group was started in the 1950s and 1960s by Eunice Kennedy Shriver when she noticed how unfairly people with disabilities were treated. Her vision of places to play and summer day camps for these young people to learn what they can do grew into the Special Olympics.