Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) selected several athletes and a coach from Brown Deer to represent Team Wisconsin at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in Princeton, New Jersey on June 14-21, 2014. Wisconsin athletes will compete in athletics, aquatics, bocce, bowling, flag football, gymnastics, powerlifting and volleyball.
Christine Cherne, who has been involved with SOWI for 23 years, participates in aquatics, basketball, softball, volleyball and snowshoeing. Cherne is no stranger to high-level competition; she has competed in the 1995, 1999, 2001 and 2003 Special Olympics World Games. When she’s not training for Special Olympics, Cherne works at the Mark Travel Corporation (Funjet) in Brown Deer.
“When I joined Special Olympics, I had very few friends and no interest or knowledge of any sport,” said Cherne. “Through Special Olympics, I have met so many athletes who have become my good friends and it’s helped me become a better person.”
This will be Cherne’s third trip to the USA Games; she competed at the 2006 USA Games in Ames, Iowa and the 2010 USA Games in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Geoff Coleman has competed in Special Olympics basketball, bowling, volleyball, softball, and snowshoeing for the past 30 years. He has also played for the Special Olympics Unified “Bad Pack” Volleyball team which is comprised of individuals with and without intellectual disabilities.
“I feel proud to be able to play sports with my friends,” he said. “I try to keep in shape by participating in different sports all year-round.”
Coleman has attended the 1995 Special Olympics World Games in Connecticut for tennis, the 1999 World Games in North Carolina for volleyball, the 2003 World Games in Ireland for soccer and the 2001 World Games in Alaska for snowshoeing. This will be his first time competing in volleyball at the Special Olympics USA Games. In 1995, SOWI recognized Coleman with the Male Athlete of the Year award.
Susan Klabunde, who has been involved with SOWI for 40 years, participates in aquatics, athletics, bocce, bowling, softball and snowshoeing. When she’s not training for Special Olympics, Klabunde works at Goodwill. She also enjoys singing, dancing, traveling and making her own jewelry. This will be Klabunde’s first trip to the USA Games; She will compete in bocce.
“Through Special Olympics I have made a lot of friends,” said Klabunde. “It’s also helped me learn patience, manners and become more independent.”
As a father to an SOWI athlete, Coach Michael Mentzel has coached bowling, soccer and basketball in the North Suburban Agency in Milwaukee for the past three years.
“The joy you get seeing the athletes compete and sharing in that moment of pure, unscripted joy that is displayed with victory, there is no quantifying those feelings,” said Mentzel.
Menzel, who works as a Construction Services Group Manager in Brookfield, will serve as the Assistant Coach in athletics and will be one of 86 delegates representing Team Wisconsin at the 2014 USA Games in New Jersey.
SOWI will host an official training camp for Team Wisconsin athletes on May 17-18, 2014 at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. The 2014 USA Games will showcase the abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities, promote the ideals of acceptance and inclusion through sport, and celebrate the transformative power of Special Olympics. A total of 3,500 athletes, 1,000 coaches and delegates, 10,000 volunteers and 70,000 spectators will attend.
Sports competition will be held at venues throughout Mercer County, New Jersey, including Princeton University, Rider University, The College of New Jersey, Mercer County Park and several area private schools. There will be ample opportunities for supporters across the state to show their spirit and join the team through volunteerism, donations and attendance. For more information or to learn more about how you can support a local athlete, visit www.SpecialOlympicsWisconsin.org.
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