Special Olympian goes for the gold

Tommy Shimoda may be non-verbal, but he doesn’t need his assistive speech device to communicate how he feels about winning a gold medal at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games; the smile on his face says it all. 

Tommy, 25, has been participating in the special recreation program at Mt. Greenwood Park since he was 5. His first sport was swimming. Since then, he’s added 16 other sports to his repertoire, including his favorite, gymnastics, and the one that has brought him widespread acclaim, speed skating.

“Tommy is willing to do anything and try anything. But when he’s out there competing, and it doesn’t matter what it is, he’s glowing,” says his mother, Barbara De Kerf. “Sports give him a great sense of purpose and a great sense of accomplishment.”

But ask Tommy, who has autism, why he likes speed skating, and the answer is simple: “Fast,” he says, using the talker. 

Tommy won not just one, but two medals at the World Winter Games: a gold in the 500-meter race and a bronze in the 777-meter. His gold medal race took only 71 seconds.

And when he won, he made sure to flash a thumbs-up to his mom, one of their regular rituals. For the entourage of family and friends who traveled with him, the whole experience can only be described as “surreal.”

Continue reading on page 42 of our digital edition.

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