Athletes of the Week: Special Olympics Alaska

Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 4:25 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska was well represented at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida last week, sending a 69-member delegation to the games for eight days of competition, sportsmanship and friendship.

“I think that it was just amazing to see the progression from day one arriving in Florida and then going through the week and just seeing the confidence build up,” said Special Olympics Alaska Director of Initiatives Joanna Paris. “That experience doing your prelims and then being able just to knock it out the park for the finals, everyone coming away feeling good about their participation in the event, having those highlights of having those PRs, being able to say that you did your best and to be able to connect and make new friends along the way it was just a tremendous experience.”

Team Alaska was comprised of 29 athletes, 11 unified partners, 13 coaches, 16 support staff, one of the largest delegations Special Olympics Alaska has had at the USA Games. The athletes returned Sunday to a warm welcome at the Ted Stevens International Airport and with bags full of hardware. Team Alaska came home with 43 total medals including 10 golds, 19 silver and 43 bronzes.

The games got off and running on June 7 when Palmer’s Gretchen Winter won Team Alaska’s first medal, a silver in the 1500-meter, before placing gold in the 400-meter and 800-meter events later in the games.

Gretchen Winter won GOLD in the 400m!! This is Team Alaska’s first gold medal of the 2022 @specialolympicsusagames ! Oh yeah!!! #2022usagames #shineasone

Posted by Special Olympics Alaska on Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Both Team Alaska swimmers appeared on the medal stand as Anya Forrester earned silver in the 50-yard butterfly and bronze in the 100-yard freestyle, while Darryl Magen took gold in the men’s 100-yard freestyle.

LETS GO TEAM AK SWIMMERS! Anya got the BRONZE in the Womens 100yd Freestyle while Darryl brought home the GOLD in the...

Posted by Special Olympics Alaska on Saturday, June 11, 2022

Bowlers put on a show, sweeping the podium and then some, claiming each medal with a tie for fourth in the singles event.

What a DAY for our bowling team who completed singles finals today! 🏅 🎳 ✨ Kristina - gold Samantha - silver Patti -...

Posted by Special Olympics Alaska on Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Johnathan Williams of Ketchikan, rose to gold in deadlifts, then showed off the muscles that made it happen.

Johnathan Williams, from the Ketchikan Community, won GOLD in deadlifts for Team Alaska!! 🥇🥇

Posted by Special Olympics Alaska on Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Kodiak’s Amy Canavan came home with three silvers (bench press, deadlift and all-around) and a bronze medal in the squat press.

On the bocce court, unified partners Sam Eason and Josh Delie were the best, placing gold, while Team Alaska also took gold in the team bocce event. Unified Track and Field excelled with a silver and four bronzes in the shotput, two silvers and a bronze in the 100-meter, gold in the boys 4x100-meter relay and silver in the girls 4x100-meter relay. Sulynnette Vega came home with one of each, placing bronze in the long jump, silver in the 100-meter and gold in the 200-meter.

Sulynnette said “I’ll have one of everything please!” Bronze🥉 - Long Jump Silver 🥈- 100m Gold 🥇- 200m Way to go! #2022usagames #teamak

Posted by Special Olympics Alaska on Friday, June 10, 2022

Team Alaska basketball rallied back to win a bronze medal in overtime, and excited may be an understatement.

Team Alaska Unified Basketball wins in overtime for the BRONZE medal!! #2022usagames #teamak

Posted by Special Olympics Alaska on Friday, June 10, 2022

In addition to memories and medals, many of the athletes came home with more.

“I think that a lot of them set personal bests, came home with a medal or ribbon, and also got the chance to go through healthy athletes at a larger competition,” Paris said. “We have some that came home with hearing aids, brand new glasses, fitted for shoes, so all of those other components that go into making a healthy athlete and being your best at competition and for training.”

The 2022 Special Olympics Alaska Summer Games are scheduled for June 24-26 and the organization is looking for volunteers. Those interested can call 907-222-7625 extention 608 or email

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