That’s what I have to say about my third time volunteering at the Special Olympics MN Winter Games Powerlifting meet on Saturday February 18th. There were over 50 athletes of various abilities from across Minnesota and even a team from Manitoba, Canada showing their strength, support.
I love volunteering at this meet because of the joy and excitement of the athletes. They are equally excited to lift and show off their skills as they are to cheer and support the other lifters. The energy level of the athletes and the fans rivals any USAPL meet I’ve attended and even though their numbers aren’t the highest I’ve seen (hello Big Ray Williams, Jen Thompson, Kim Walford, and so many others) the lifts mean as much, if not more to the athletes.
The energy on the platform began with the first squat and continued through the last deadlift. For me, the first squat is arguably the hardest lift of the day. This lift really sets the tone for the rest of the meet. And I can say that most lifters hit this lifts beautifully based on their ability. There will always be some red lights but they only help to make you better – regardless of your ability.
What I probably love the most is watching all the volunteers and coaches with the athletes. The gentleness and respect given is amazing and in this case truly everyone is a winner. The big men who lovingly give a white light to lifters and the strong women who keep them safe on the platform truly love what they are doing.
I will admit that I have favorites. The Barbenders group from Minneapolis has two of my favorites – Nell and David. I know David through a fellow Movement Minneapolis member (hi Greg!). David is tall and lanky and lifts with his heart (figuratively, folks). He is quiet and polite and remembers so many details.
And Nell. There are not many female lifters in the special Olympics so its easy to root for them all. But Nell has a smile that just won’t quit. When she finishes a lift she just beams. And it’s the biggest smile I’ve seen. The smile lights up the room and I always just want to give her a great big hug!
The last lifter I have to mention is Reetu. She is wonderful to watch, too. To see her smile you have to look into her eyes. They sparkle when she knows she’s made a lift. How wonderful it is to watch her! And her lifts are so good! You know I’ll be watching for her next year!
This year we – you know, #teamgreen – met up with the Bemidgi team and made lasting friendships. Volunteer coach Allyson Allen competed my coach Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake in her first meet way back when. She has a fine team who was in rare form at the meet. The support and love they showed each other was infectious and the kindness they showed us (#teamgreen coach JVB and teammates Andria Johnson, Traci Slane, and Libby Berg (if you need a chiro and are in the MPLS area I’ll hook you up)) what it meant to lift each other up and keep you humble. I’m going to strongly recommend we emulate them at all of our meets going forward.
The comraderie that is present in a Special Olympics Powerlifting meet is magical. Even strangers are friends. There is no greater joy for me than watching these athletes approach the bar and perform a lift. It is a beautiful site to realize that the bar doesn’t care who you are, it respects you for your effort.