Nebraskans make marks at Special Olympics USA Games
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Thousands of America’s most inspiring athletes have converged on Florida for the Special Olympics USA Games.
Among the 5,500 athletes from all fifty states is a team of 35 Nebraskans. In the first days of competitions, a pair of powerlifters proved to be at the heart and soul of the Husker contingent.
Papillion’s Rachel Mulligan and Kearney’s Craig Schutt showed their medals via Zoom from the games in Orlando Wednesday night. Their coach said they were getting quite a bit of love on social media for their efforts.
“Their phones have been blowing up,” Mike Sissel said. The long-time coach for Special Olympics Nebraska couldn’t be happier for his powerlifters, and for the overall team, who have been enjoying every minute since the opening ceremonies Sunday night.
“It felt really really cool just to see all my friends, see all the different teams that were there,” Mulligan said. “There were some athletes I knew from the last games (in Seattle in 2018), and some of my friends were here, too. That was pretty neat to experience.”
Once the powerlifting competition began Monday, both 29-year-old athletes more than held their own in their divisions. Craig, competing since 2015, has been preparing for his first USA Games at the local gym in his hometown, Kearney Cross-Fit, and it paid off. He showed no signs of pressure when he pulled a personal best 413 pounds on his last lift to give him the overall gold.
“I felt great in the competition, I feel like I got stronger each lift,” Schutt said. “I try to be as calm as I can so I can think about my lift... On the dead lift I feel like I could have done more. I felt very good.”
”For me, my nerves, I was shaking,” Sissel said. “He, not at all...he was fine.”
Rachel, a USA Games competitor in 2018 in track and field, looked like a natural on the powerlifting mat, winning the overall gold, two silvers, and a bronze.
“It was really, really hard,” she said. “It was a lot of fun. These were lifters that I have never gone up against before, this was my first national powerlifting competition, so it was a lot of fun, the athletes were really friendly and we were all cheering each other on and supporting each other.”
With three days of competition remaining, they’ll focus now on supporting their teammates in other sports. Isn’t that camaraderie what makes these games so inspiring, athletes who do their best, then turn to lift up fellow competitors? And in the case of these two gold medal-winning powerlifters, to shout out some gratitude, too.
“I’m gonna say hi to everyone back in Nebraska and thank you for supporting me throughout the games,” Rachel said.
“Thanks to everybody for supporting us in every sport we do,” Craig said. “Go Team Nebraska!”
According to Special Olympics Nebraska, the team will arrive home Sunday, June 12 at 10:40 a.m. on Southwest Airlines at Eppley Field.
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