Jackie Wittenburg, 15, a sophomore at Gilbert’s Highland High School, has been named an alternate to the U.S. team for next summer’s Special Olympics in Athens. Jackie is an athlete in track and field events.
To be chosen as an alternate, Jackie had to place well enough in each event, participate in regional and state meets and consistently display good sportsmanship.
Jackie has been in Special Olympics for two years as part of the Gilbert Roadrunners. She will learn in March if she is attending the Athens games.
Jackie has Apert Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that is primarily characterized by specific malformations of the skull, midface, hands and feet. It may also cause deficits in the areas of speech, hearing and cognition.
”I worried that her self-esteem might suffer if she wasn’t able to keep up with the other athletes,” said her mother, Kathy. “Then one day, she won a medal and in the car on the ride home, for the first time in her life, my daughter told me she was proud of herself.”
“Jackie is a very sweet girl and cheers for everyone else. Only this year did she embrace the ‘spirit of competition’ and is absolutely thrilled she may have the opportunity to compete in the World Games in Athens.” her mother said.
In the coming months, Jackie needs to continue participating in sports events and meets and working with her coaches on her events. She can attend Special Olympic fundraising activities as she waits for a call.
In the event she is notified that she will be activated as an athlete, she will need to attend a prep camp in San Diego prior to heading to the Olympics.
The Athens Special Olympics will take place June 25 to July 4, 2011. They expect 7,500 Special Olympics Athletes from 185 nations to compete in 22 Olympic-type sports.