PORTAGE — All year, TMJ4 News has featured our Two America’s Series. The newsroom's signature franchise highlights the America you may know, or might not. This includes those living with disabilities.
We share how one Special Olympic’s race at the USA Games in Florida, touched the life of an athlete in Portage.
There's always those unforgettable moments when we watch our favorite athlete or sports team. You can add this one, too:
A Special Olympics Wisconsin athlete representing the Badger State in the USA Games last month in Orlando, Florida. Despite losing his goggles just three strokes into the race, Steven Woodard from Portage took home GOLD!
It was hard work which paid off with gold around Steven Woodard’s neck, for the 50 Meter Breast Stroke. He adds, “Even people from other states said "That was a good race..." I made a lot of friendships from that race, and its fantastic.”
It is an understatement to say his parents watching were elated, “Aww about as proud as anybody can get in the world right now,” said Parents Diane & Ronald Woodard, “Especially when its your own son you just go ‘YEAH!’”
The picture of him during the swim has inspired so may. Special Olympics Wisconsin captioned it “The Goggle Mustache.”
“As soon as it popped off - I was like ‘Awww no all of this training its gunna happen,” said Woodard, adding he thought next, “What would Phelps and Ledecky do?”
“That was from teaching them that's what they had to do as swimmers they could not stop,” said Michelle Walhovd, Woodard’s swim coach.
For Coach Michelle Walhovd, she believes the true purpose of her role goes much deeper than the intense practices, “Here we are a family. We watch out for each other, even out in the community.”
Woodard has been in Special Olympics Wisconsin since 1994. He says it has changed his life, “It helps with my disability, helped me with my speaking skills staying on task. It helps boost confidence when you're included in a group.”
As for those infamous goggles, Steve said they are officially retired. Then, gifted them to TMJ4 News reporter Julia Fello. As he autographed a swim cap he said, “You know, Special Olympics is about inclusion. Thank you TMJ and you guys for doing this.”
Special Olympics Wisconsin is celebrating their 50th Anniversary Celebration Games July 29-31. More than 1,100 athletes are competing in the state games in Waukesha at Carroll University. Click here to see the full schedule of events.