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This year marked the debut of the triathlon in the Special Olympics World Games, and some well-known faces made their way out to Long Beach to support—and compete with—the Team USA athletes on course.
One of those athletes was triathlete Sarah Haskins of Team Toyota. Haskins turned pro in 2004 and represented the United States in 2008 at the Beijing Olympic Games, where she placed 11th. In 2011, she became a Pan Am Games Gold Medalist.
With the Special Olympics Unified Sports Experience, Special Olympics athletes are able to compete with professional athletes, celebrities and dignitaries, to link all participants and showcase the abilities of these Special Olympics athletes. In the triathlon, 19 Special Olympics athletes competed side by side with some of the greats, including Haskins..
On the 750 meter swim, 12 mi bike and 3.1 mi run, this inaugural event saw athletes from the United States, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Lebanon and more. Haskins competed in the swim and bike and then helped an athlete through the run.
In addition to her participation on course, she took part in the Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America, where three torches make their way across the country from the East Coast to Los Angeles for the opening ceremonies of the World Games. In total, the torches were carried 20,492 miles across the country.
“It was an honor to be part of the first ever Special Olympics Triathlon event as a Team Toyota athlete,” Haskins told Women’s Running. “Hearing the cheers from the crowd and watching the athletes giving it their all gave me a deep appreciation for the meaning of sport and a true testament of the human spirit.”
Amy Noctor and Courtney Dreyfus, the women on Team USA, both part of the Special Olympics New Jersey, took silver and bronze medals home. They have been coached by U.S. Special Olympics triathlon team coach Lisa Rumer for the past two years in preparation for the World Games. They were selected to advance after their participation in the 2014 National Games in New Jersey.