Homegrown Athletes Succeed at Special Olympics USA – The Observer

ORLANDO – Two local athletes proudly represented the River Parishes and Team Louisiana at the Special Olympics USA Games, which took place June 5-12 in Orlando, Florida.

The theme for this year’s event was “Shine as One”, and the athletes did just that. Michael Love placed second in the 4×50 relay, third in the 50-m butterfly and fourth in the 100-m freestyle in his first national championship experience. Oneil Legendre also represented the local Special Olympics team and made great contributions to Team Louisiana’s basketball team, placing fifth in the US Games.

Love, 19, has competed in swimming for the past 12 years. He entered the USA Games with a goal in mind and went on with amazing courage and determination. His family didn’t realize until after the competition that he had the flu, but no one could ever tell he was sick from the way he ran through the water without complaining.

“He won’t let anything get in the way of him achieving his goals. It’s something he can carry with him throughout his life,” said his mother, Connie Love. I was very proud of him and watched him compete. All the hard work he put in paid off and he was awesome.

Michael Love said participating in the US Games was the experience of a lifetime. He felt a mixture of emotions intensify with each event – ​​everything from excitement to fear and euphoria.

The Special Olympics USA Games have provided new settings and new friends, and Love is eager to find out if he will be selected to compete at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany.

If Love is part of the state selections, he will compete in time trials later this year in preparation for the world games. He continues to work hard in the pool to perfect every stroke, preparing for the possibility of competing in Germany.

Oneil Legendre, 27, was a member of the unified Team Louisiana Basketball 5×5 team. The team played three pool games earlier in the week before coming into play on June 9. The Louisiana team played hard and fought until the end, but ultimately placed fifth in the USA Games. Legendre made plenty of three-pointers every game and played excellent defense throughout the experience.

“We are so proud of him and all the players on the team,” said his mother, Renée Legendre.
“Our whole family of 10 traveled to Orlando to cheer him on. No words could truly express how we all felt watching from the Opening Ceremony every game they played. There’s so much memories and feelings from that week that we will always remember and continue to talk about on a daily basis. It was definitely an experience to cherish for Oneil. He had such an amazing time being a part of it all.

Oneil began participating in the Special Olympics while attending the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2015. He joined the local team after returning to St. Charles Parish in 2020.

His competitive nature allowed him to adapt quickly to new sports.

While Special Olympics is known for its inclusion through sports for people with and without intellectual disabilities, the organization’s impact in the parishes of the river extends far beyond athletics.

St. John the Baptist, St. Charles, and St. James parishes are part of Special Olympics Louisiana – Bayouland Zone 3. Kids and adults ages 8-99 can stay active while building their confidence and social skills through a close team bond.

Basketball, track and field, bocce, bowling, softball and swimming are offered to athletes, but organizer Connie Love reminds the community that Special Olympics is more than sports.

“We have Halloween parties, Christmas parties and bowling parties. Sometimes we go to the movies, have pizza parties, or attend high school football games. There are a lot of things we do where they can engage and interact,” Love said.

For more information about Special Olympics in the River Parishes, call Connie Love at 985-618-6246 or email [email protected] The state office can be reached at laso.org or by calling 985-345-6644 or 1-800-345-6644.

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