Coach Peter Booth and Erin Watson celebrate a win

Special Olympics Gold

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Thursday July 19, 2018

Team Vermont’s interscholastic Unified basketball team earned a gold medal July 5 at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. Part of Special Olympics 19 member delegation, the team arrived in Seattle, Washington June 30 and began the games by attending a star-studded opening ceremony at the University of Washington, where all the teams were welcomed into Husky Stadium by 39,000 cheering spectators and volunteers. Vermont is the smallest delegation at the Games among states like Arizona with 136 delegates and Florida with 234.

“The gold medal today was the icing on the cake,” says Peter Booth, basketball coach for Team Vermont. “The cake underneath was these ten kids working so hard for the last three months and having their efforts pay off in such a big, satisfying way.”

Unified basketball offered through Special Olympics Vermont follows the player development model where the Unified partners - participants without intellectual disabilities who play alongside Special Olympics athletes - facilitate play but do not shoot and adhere to restrictions on defense. Over the last several months, Team Vermont, from Champlain Valley Union High School, focused on this new style of play and developed into a cohesive force on and off the court. After a very close game against Florida that went into overtime, Team Vermont was 4-0. USA Games officials bumped the team up to Division 1 where they maintained their winning streak, overtaking Rhode Island 37-21. In the gold medal game, they took on a talented team from Connecticut. Team Vermont was down by 1 at halftime and began the second half with a huge three pointer and never looked back. In the end, Vermont overpowered Connecticut 38-29, clinching the gold medal.

Earlier in the week, other Team Vermont athletes medaled as well. Aaron Sanville earned three lifetime personal bests and a gold medal in the 200M, the first ever gold medal for Vermont in a Special Olympics USA Games in Athletics. Michelle Olden had impressive personal record performances in the 100 and 200 meter races, earning her two silver medals.

Competition continued July 6 with track and field and swimming events. Before leaving the Emerald City and heading home, Team Vermont enjoyed a Closing Ceremony event at Seattle’s Lake Union Park.