Special Olympics athletes bring home gold at Emmitsburg festival
By Sylvia Carignan
October 22, 2016
It took only two months for Rick Fuss to build a gold medal-winning flag football team.
Fuss’ Frederick County team beat a team from St. Mary’s County during the Special Olympics Maryland’s Fall Sports Festival at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg on Saturday.
The 12-member Frederick County flag football team included athletes with and without intellectual disabilities.
“They did a wonderful job,” Fuss said after their win.
For some of the team members, it was their first time playing football. Teaching them the fundamentals was the main challenge, Fuss said.
He’s spent nine years coaching with Special Olympics Maryland.
“They’re really all stars,” Fuss said.
Out on the field, some athletes use sign language to communicate, but the spectators, in fleece blankets and warm jackets, looked like they were watching any other football game.
Chris Warren, a coach from Howard County, was watching one of his teams from the stands Saturday afternoon.
“They absolutely love playing this game,” Warren said.
Their top rule, which they repeat at every practice, is to have fun, he said.
Warren has been coaching for six years and has had some athletes on his teams that entire time. The challenge is in recruiting partners, or people who do not have intellectual disabilities, and getting them to stick around year after year.
According to Melissa Kelly, senior director of school sports programs for Special Olympics Maryland, there were nearly 400 athletes who participated in the events Saturday at the Mount.
Many participants were from Frederick County: 49 athletes, 25 partners and 18 coaches.
The day’s events included long-distance running, power lifting and tennis in traditional singles and doubles. The festival’s cycling trials and road races were held at Fort Ritchie on Saturday.
Special Olympics Maryland provides sports training and competition opportunities to children and adults in the state who have intellectual disabilities or developmental disabilities that are closely related.
The organization offers events in many different sports, including golf, powerlifting, cycling and softball, at no cost to athletes or their families.
* Staff Photo by Sam Yu
Mark Salewski, of the Montgomery County Special Olympics team, competes Saturday on the tennis court during the Special Olympics Maryland 2016 Fall Sports Festival held at Mount St. Mary's University.