Local Special Olympic Athlete Prepares to Compete in Korea

By: Jordan Shefte Email
By: Jordan Shefte Email

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150 athletes from across the United States are currently preparing for the January Special Olympic Games in Korea, and two of the participants are from right here in Kansas.
One of them, Helen Will-Gallegos qualified for the US Special Olympic team because of her state competition results and her attitude.
She'll be participating in the cross country skiing competition, something that's been difficult to train for, with our lack of snow.
But even so, she's ready, and excited to represent team USA.

Nineteen year old helen will-gallegos might be training on a track today, but she's gearing up for a much different sport.

"I'm preparing myself for cross country skiing in South Korea," Helen said.

That's right, Helen is a cross country skier... And a good one at that.
She's one of 151 athletes chosen to represent the USA in the Special Olympic World Games in Korea.

"There's only two athletes in Kansas that get to go and she got selected based on her abilities, her attitude, her willingness to excel in everything that she does," said Helen's mother, TJ Will. "We're uh, we're way proud of her."

"I feel excited and really happy that I'm going," Helen said.

But it's hard to prepare for cross country skiing, when there's no snow.
Helen has had to get creative in her training methods.

"Practices in the long jump pit at school, and then what she's been doing is running and weightlifting at the Y," Will said.

For Helen, it's not about winning.

"I really don't care what medal I get," Helen said.

But rather the experience.

"I'm not even scared at all, it's like, seeing everybody again, is like yay," Helen said.

It's about being around others who are just like her, and forming relationships across the country, and even the world.

"Watching the kids and how they interact with each other, it's amazing," Will said.

Maybe winning a race or two along the way.

"I won't be surprised if we come home with a couple of gold medals... Really big gold medals," Will said.

The other Kansas competitor is from Pittsburg.
The 150 athletes will be leaving for Korea on January 24th and the Olympic Games begin on the 29th.
Helen was also unanimously selected by the cross country team to be one of the torch bearers.

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