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The “Evanston Five” delivered the goods: Each of the Special Olympics athletes who were part of Illinois’ team at the 2022 Special Olympic USA Games in Orlando, Fla., medaled in their sport.

(See photo gallery below.)

  • In flag football, Alex Anderson, Riley Hoffman and Grayson Deeney won gold medals in the team competition.
  • In powerlifting, Kirk Nelson won two bronze medals in bench press and deadlift; two silver medals in squat lift and combined (total weight of squat, bench and deadlift).
  • In the 800-meter run, Caroline Colianne won a silver medal. 

Before this week, Colianne was the only experienced Olympian and medalist of the five, having received four medals in aquatics events at the 2014 Special Olympic USA Games.

The men have been active in sports for years, but this was their first time participating in the Special Olympics. To add to the excitement, the trip to Orlando was Hoffman’s first experience on an airplane.

When the RoundTable spoke to these athletes at their sendoff prior to the start of their Olympic journey, each admitted to being a little nervous. They had their schedules and team uniforms ready.

Colianne said she was slightly concerned about the Florida heat even though all outdoor events were scheduled for mornings. They discussed packing strategies for their clothes.

Anderson debated how many pairs of socks and underwear to pack, which led to a brief conversation about the benefits of too few versus too many.

The flag football team was eager to meet up with their other Illinois teammates, most of whom they had not seen since a weekend practice in Bloomington. 

The pictures captured by the team from Special Olympics Illinois, coach Leonard Woodson (and ESPN3 screenshots) showed tremendous athletic effort, sweat and smiles.

The RoundTable will catch up with the athletes when they are back in town and hear from them what it was like to be a national Special Olympian. 

Wendi Kromash

Wendi Kromash is curious about everything and will write about anything. She tends to focus on one-on-one interviews with community leaders, recaps and reviews of cultural events, feature stories about...

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