Team North Carolina - 2018 USA Games July 5, 2018

Gymnasts vault their way to the medal stand

On the first day of competition, Team NC gymnastics athletes were feeling a lot of butterflies, underneath their sparkly leotards.

“Both Brielle (Mulroy) and Lexi (Stern) were nervous and didn’t do as well as we know they’re capable of. But that actually provided a strong teaching moment about the realities of a competition of this magnitude,” shared Rory Riley-Topping, Team NC gymnastics coach.

The trio worked on regaining their focus through visualizing techniques, deep breaths and reminders to take it slow. The improvement was dramatic and positive.

On the second day of competition (July 4), both Mulroy and Stern found themselves making multiple trips to the medal stand, collecting quite a few medals and feeling better about their performance.

While their medal count is impressive, Coach Riley-Topping is far prouder of their sportsmanship.

“Lexi has won the hearts of all the gymnasts, coaches and the audience because she hugs absolutely every athlete after they finish a routine, and tells them what a good job they’ve done. We’ve gotten so many compliments about her sportsmanship and how she’s helped some athletes feel better after a performance that maybe wasn’t their best,” explained Riley-Topping.

Even as both athletes seek to encourage others, they turn their attention to their third day of competition and keeping those butterflies at bay.

Golden golfers

Both Team NC golfers to bring home gold medals

Andro Keck and Anthony Beauchaine never had any idea how well they were doing during the first two days of competition at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.

“Golf is a unique sport in that anxiety can completely ruin a swing. I didn’t want that to happen to them so I made sure they didn’t watch the scoreboard leading up to the final day,” explained Vince Powierski, Team NC golf coach.

Powierski’s strategy paid off as Keck and Beauchaine remained focused and without any expectations. The two athletes continued their strong play in the third round, locking up gold medals for both of them.

“Both gentlemen have an unquestioning willingness to make the many small daily adjustments golf requires. Doing those helped them tremendously over the course of competition. They have earned those gold medals!” enthused Powierski.

Congratulations, Team NC golf!

“A blessing in disguise”

Bocce coach spends July 4th in a way he never expected

The 4th of July is often filled with cookouts and fireworks, but for Purple Heart recipient and Team NC bocce coach Kevin Rumley, it was filled something even better: watching his team go for the gold.

Coach Rumley has been involved with Special Olympics since he was a teenager, but his Marine Corps service from 2003-2007 limited his ability to volunteer. But he found his way back, thanks to an important visitor.

“When I was in Iraq, I was severely wounded and spent two years in the hospital recovering. I wasn’t sure what the future held for me. During that time, the Shrivers visited with the USO and I got to meet Mrs. Shriver. The family invited me to attend Camp Shriver in their backyard after my recovery and I was hooked all over again. It was a blessing in disguise,” explained Rumley.

Years later, Rumley credits his involvement with helping him continue to recover.

“It’s a transformative experience. There is something incredibly healing about service and supporting others. The courage and resilience that Special Olympics show regularly is so encouraging to me.”

The encouragement has come full circle as Team NC bocce can always count on Coach Rumley to make plenty of noise each time they have a good shot. He always gets a smile out of them and returns one just as broad.

“We’re all best friends now. This week has been the highlight of my life,” Rumley said, smiling of course.

In my own words

Hear what Seattle is like directly from Team NC!

“When I was in the pool, I was thinking ‘I got this’. Coach told me to leave it all in the pool.” - Aly Sheedy, Team NC swimming

“It felt really good to win and it’s going to feel even better to get that gold medal!” – Dawn Grooms, Team NC bocce

“I feel so proud of myself! ” - Randy Talbot, Team NC swimming

Check out these photos from day 4!

See the highlights from July 4:

Stay up to date with the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games by tuning into ESPN!

Cheer on Team NC by donating online today here!

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