Special Olympics Athlete Plays All Sports

Flagstaff, AZ – (Cheers, whoops and applause)

Flagstaff deejay Eddie Miller welcomes the crowd at the opening ceremony at Sinagua High School.

MILLER: There are no losers in Special Olympics only winners. Victory is already theirs even before the competition. It gives me great pleasure to introduce Amanda Lonetti. (applause fade under)

Lonetti beams as her name is announced. With her chin up she takes long strides to the podium.

LONETTI: Welcome family, friends and athletes to the winter games 2006. I've been an athlete since 1997 and have competed in almost every sport (applause) many different teams came a long way Please join me in the athlete oath: Let me win but if I cannot win let me brave in the attempt. Thank you and have a good weekend and good luck everyone. (applause fade)

The 21-year-old athlete says there's no sport she wouldn't try. Her coach Melissa Roe says Special Olympics is very important to Lonetti.

ROE: 1 We were just talking in the car on the way over here about the lottery and she said if she won she would spend half for savings and the other half would go to Special Olympics.

LONETTI: It's important to me because when I was in high school and middle school I couldn't compete and play in any sports because it pretty much was too hard for me.

But Special Olympics give her and many others the opportunity to belong and compete with a disability.

LONETTI: My disability is SLD it's called slow learnistus disable. That means inside my brain I take notes slowly and I need extra time on everything. And also I have this thing called near fibromatosis it also causes my disability. I get these cists. so far they haven't found any on my brain. They could grow on my brain.

When she's not playing floor hockey, basketball or tennis Lonetti is working at Fry's Food Store.

LONETTI: I'm a maintenance person. I do the cleaning I sweep the store I clean the restrooms there I love it there everyone there is nice all of the employees there know I have a disability they give me time to get my stuff done.

In addition to her job she also enjoys Harry Potter books, horror movies and dancing. Fortunately for her there is a dance following the opening ceremony. (start to fade in music) Much like a typical high school dance the deejay plays the classic hits. (Bring in YMCA) Lonetti and the other athletes wave their arms enthusiastically in the air.

(YMCA fade under next graf)

Lonetti's coach Melissa Roe says Special Olympics gives the athletes the opportunity to socialize, to stay fit and to be a part of a team.

ROE: This is a great great thing for a lot of different athletes because it's the only thing they get to do really coming here and being number one or just being in uniform is the top of their life.

(Bring up game sfx.)

Wearing an oversized blue and white Mountaineer jersey and the number 15 Amanda Lonetti takes to the floor Saturday with her teammates. The Northern Arizona University Field House is divided up so four games can take place at the same time.

(Game sfx)

Lonetti's teammate scores and Amanda gives her a high five. The Mountaineers win the game 3 to 1. There are at least two more games to play before they will know the results. But in Special Olympics the goal is not to win but to do your best. No records are broken except for those of courage, determination and sportsmanship.

For Arizona Public Radio I'm Laurel Druley in Flagstaff.