Four Athletes Who Totally Crushed It At The 2015 Special Olympic Games

Four Athletes Who Totally Crushed It At The 2015 Special Olympic Games

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Olivia Quigley CC specialolympicsusa

As closing ceremonies commence, we’d like to be able to shine a spotlight on all 6,500 Special Olympics competitor—but these four inspiring individuals stood out to us among many amazing people competing at the 2015 games in Los Angeles, California.

Take a look.

Olivia Quigley

Quigley got what she came for: a gold medal in the 100 meter dash.

But she had to defy doctors’ orders to do it.

The 24-year-old autistic sprinter was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in February, and was scheduled for surgery in July. She decided to postpone that surgery so she could go to the games.

Olivia Quigley CC specialolympicsusa“I said, ‘I’m going to the World Games with cancer or not.’ Nothing is stopping me from going,” Quigley told USA TODAY sports.

In fact, nothing ever seems to stop Olivia.

She was diagnosed with autism shortly after being adopted from China at age 3 by Dan and Judy Quigley of Wisconsin. Back then, doctors said Olivia would never be an independent adult and would always need the help of her parents.

Today, she’s living on her own and has a full-time job at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Olivia put off the breast cancer surgery for the Special Olympics but not the chemo, which left her exhausted and nauseous during the Games. She felt sick before her event but raced anyway–and won.

Matthew Hernandez 

Matthew Hernandez TwitterAs a baby, Hernandez was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition that doctors said he wouldn’t survive – they also predicted that he’d never able to walk, eat on his own, or be able to speak.

But with his family’s help and support, Matthew became independent, active in school sports, and joined the ROTC. He also volunteered whenever he could.

“They say I can do anything and (so) just keep pushing,” Matthew told TODAY.com.

When Matthew, now 21, found out he qualified for the Special Olympics as a kayaker, he spent five to six days a week training in his hometown of Dallas, Texas.

It paid off—he won a silver medal in Los Angeles, coming in second in the finals of the 500 meter singles race.

Danielle Blakeney

Danielle Blakeney FacebookBlakeney, born with Downs Syndrome, has always been a very determined individual.

Once, during a state gymnastics competition, she broke her foot and insisted on continuing on to win two gold and three silver medals.

That same drive is paying off at this year’s games. So far, the rhythmic gymnast from Erlanger, Kentucky earned three gold medals in L.A., as well as a silver and bronze.

She makes it looks easy, but she’s at the gym practicing seven days a week.

This is Danielle’s second Special Olympics World Games. In 2011 she brought home three gold, a silver and a bronze from Athens, Greece.

Jackie Barrett

The self-proclaimed, “Newfoundland Moose” is a powerlifter from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He marked his farewell appearance at the Special Olympics by winning three gold medals and a silver.

Jackie, who has autism, squatted more than 600 pounds — which is like shouldering a vending machine—but told his Facebook fans the highlight of his “amazing day” was dead-lifting (a lift made from a standing position) 655.9 pounds and setting a new Special Olympics World Games record.

Fans began lining up outside the competition venue at the L.A. Convention Center an hour before his event began, chanting “Moose! Moose!” and “Jack-ie! Jack-ie!”

“I felt more pressure due to the fact that I had a lot more attention than usual,” Barrett told ESPN “The people here made me feel like a superstar.”

This was the last appearance for the 41 year old weightlifter. He plans to retire from competition and be a powerlifter coach.

Photos CC: specialolympicsusa, Twitter, Facebook

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