'07 Special Olympics World Games
Prove Golden for TIer, Sailing Partner
By Sara Campbell,
Texas Instruments Communication Services
06 Nov 2007
Talk about nerve-racking. In the last race of the 2007 Special Olympics
World Games, TIer Steve Comen and his sailing partner found themselves
bow to bow with the Chinese team and leading by only two points.
If Steve and Special Olympian Kendrick Lawrence, 18, could steer their
13-foot sailboat clear of trouble and win the race, they would head home
from Shanghai, China, with gold.
Ultimately the winds of fate rewarded the U.S. team, with Steve and
Kendrick, a senior at Duncanville High School, taking gold in their
division. The Chinese took silver, and the Greeks took bronze.
"It's a lot of fun, and it's really rewarding just to watch them develop
and see them do things people wouldn't think they'd be able to do,"
Steve said of his experience as a unified partner for the U.S. Special
Olympic sailing team.
Unified partners train with Special Olympians and help them during the
competition. Steve, a project manager in the Make Test organization, has
been sailing competitively since college and participated in the 2003
World Games in Dublin, Ireland, where he and a different Special
Olympian also sailed to gold.
He said the Chinese seemed to treat this year's World Games, which were
Sept. 27 to Oct. 12, almost as a trial run for next summer's Olympics in
Beijing. The Chinese took pains to make sure Special Olympians and
volunteers were well taken care of, even stopping traffic on highways
for the Olympians' bus convoys, he said.
"They didn't want any accidents or people getting sick," he said. "When
we went out on the streets, we were given strict instructions not to eat
any food from street vendors."
Steve runs the Special Olympics program for the Corinthian Sailing Club
in Dallas and also serves as sailing director for Special Olympics
Texas. He said he and Kendrick were selected from Texas as one of five
teams to represent the U.S. in the summer games.
"The way you get selected, in Texas and some other states, is you just
apply and out of anyone eligible to go, they do a random drawing," Steve
said. "Kendrick just lucked out."
Special Olympians competing in Steve's team's division must sit in the
back and steer at least half the race. That wasn't a problem for
Kendrick, whom Steve called the best Special Olympian sailor in Texas.
In fact, Kendrick steered for all the team's races at the World Games.
The pair trained on White Rock Lake for two months and raised a total of
$4,000 to help pay expenses before heading to China.
Steve said he enjoyed watching Kendrick, the youngest athlete on the
U.S. team, meet other Special Olympians from around the world. All the
athletes, except those on the Chinese team, stayed at the same hotel.
"So we would eat together, and they had karaoke and dances and stuff for
the athletes," he said. "It was neat to see Kendrick go over there and
make friends with people from Russia and Spain and China. He got a lot
of attention from the volunteers."
Steve said the sailing club has a spring program for Special Olympians,
with the next big competition the state contest next fall in Dallas. He
is considering whether to be a unified partner again in 2011, when the
World Games will be in Greece, or whether to try to go as a coach
Whatever he decides, this year's experience is one he won't soon forget.
The greatest thing about winning, he said, was seeing Kendrick's
"He's normally real quiet, and so he's never displayed a whole lot of
emotion," Steve said. "But he's very competitive."
They had finished the last race and knew they had the gold medal in the
bag, Steve said. As they neared a viewing area on shore where people
were sitting watching the race, Kendrick got excited.
"He made me start steering so he could jump up and do his victory dance
when we sailed by," Steve said. "I didn't see most of it - I was trying
to keep from flipping the boat over. But he was pumping his arms and
waving. It was great."