Meet Katy Wilson—she is the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games gold medal winner in the balance beam and vault. At the age of 22, Katy has traveled all across the United States (and the world) spreading the message of the Special Olympics, and showing off her gymnastics skills. But, she always returns to her hometown of Snellville, GA—just outside of the state’s capital of Atlanta.
Katy began her road to the gold at age 10 after watching her older sister compete in gymnastics. Her Dad found her a class, and not long after that, she competed in her first gymnastics event. It’s not always been easy, but Katy says, “You just have to keep on trying and never give up!” Besides the cheering crowds and gold medals, Katy says that the best part about gymnastics for her is that she is healthy and strong and feels really proud of herself.
To keep in shape for competition, Katy practices twice a week. She goes to her local gym with a group of friends, and then meets with her coach on Saturdays for some extra practice on her routines. Her specialties are the balance beam, bars, and floor exercise.
Katy is currently competing at level three which means she is among some of the most talented athletes in the Special Olympics. Soon she will be moving up to level four, which is the position for the most elite competitors. Katy’s success is well deserved. She not only spreads the message of the Special Olympics as a Global Messenger, she also lives by the Special Olympics oath— “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in my attempt.” Katy showed her bravery recently when she did a cartwheel on the balance beam without a spotter for the very first time. After she completed it, the entire gym clapped for her—this was the hardest stunt she had ever had to do, and she nailed it!
Rounding the Country…and the Globe
Of all of the fun places Katy has visited in her years of competition, she says her trip to Reno, Nevada was the most exciting. She competed in the Tournament of Champions with her all-time favorite gymnast, Shannon Miller. After Katy's dismount from the balance beam, she received thunderous applause and was asked to sign autographs! Another special moment was when Katy met Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner in Raleigh, NC at the 1999 World Games. "After my floor routine, they told me that I did the most beautiful cartwheels they had ever seen!"
In her travels, Katy has also visited the White House twice to meet with the Clintons and the Bushes. Katy plans to attend the 2003 Summer World Games in Dublin, Ireland as a special guest, where she will make appearances and hand out awards.
Spring Into Action
Katy says that if you want to learn more about gymnastics, you should visit your local gym. She suggests watching a class or two to see if you like it, and also talk to those who are involved to find out more.
Katy has been an inspiration to many, especially her niece Sutton. “I said to her — if you want to get involved, come to my gym and see what it’s all about…maybe you’ll like it.” Sutton did visit Katy’s gym, and she loved it. Katy says, “Sutton was only five-years-old and she started learning things that I was learning. I like getting others involved.”
Interested in gymnastics? You don’t have to be a pro to try it out. Take it from Katy—if you work hard and never give up you’ll achieve things you never thought you could—you may just surprise yourself! So grab your duffle bag and head for the gym.
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