Jordan Casey and coach Nina Weston represented White County as part of the Tennessee Powerlifting Team, which competed at the USA Special Olympics Games last week.
The national competition, which is held once every four years, took place in Orlando, Florida, and Casey made the most of his time on the stage, bringing home four gold medals from the games.
“We practiced two to three times a week at the Sparta YMCA for this,” Weston, who was selected as head coach of the Special Olympics Tennessee powerlifting team in April 2021, said. “Jordan dedicated his lifts to his team member Jeremy Parrish, his mother who passed away four years ago, his family, and his hometown. He wanted to make everyone proud.”
Casey won gold in each of his divisions as well as an overall gold medal in his weight class.
“He put his heart on the stage for this,” Weston said about Casey, who also achieved three personal bests in bench press and deadlift while at the national competition. “This was very emotional for the both of us.”
Casey was one of eight athletes from across the state that were a part of the Tennessee Powerlifting Team.
“I had to coordinate with their regular coaches throughout the year in preparing them on what weights they were able to lift and how they performed,” Weston said. “Many of the athletes had not competed at this level and were new to the national stage with ESPN covering each day of competition. I think I was more nervous than they were this with this also being my first time as a state coach.”
Weston said the event took place over four days at the ESPN Sports complex, in Orlando, and each athlete had to adhere to IPF rules, just as any athlete would.
“All equipment had to be checked prior to competition as well as their uniforms. Even their socks!” Weston said and explained that the process was often time consuming and stressful, but that each athlete handled it flawlessly. “Each day was very busy and long, but the athletes did not complain – they were such a wonderful group to work with.”
Weston said each competition came with its own challenges, many of which weren’t known until they saw what their competitors were lifting. With five different athletes all lifting on one day of the competition, Weston said that there were challenges and re-strategizing sessions that she couldn’t have navigated without her co-coach, Jason Jones, from Mount Juliet.
“I could not have asked for a better team, they shined on that stage,” Weston said about the eight athletes that traveled to Orlando as part of the Tennessee Powerlifting Team. “They all exceeded my expectations, and many medals were won and many of the athletes achieved personal bests. Watching each of them do their best and overcome challenges will be something I will never forget. I would not trade this experience for anything in the world.”
To round out their experience at the USA Special Olympics Games, the Tennessee Team, which won a total of 15 gold, 10 silver, and three bronze medals, participated in various health screenings, received a new pair of shoes, and spent some time at Animal Kingdom and Walt Disney World.
Weston, who started coaching Special Olympics Powerlifting on the local level by coaching Calvin Jones, a 20-year veteran of Special Olympics, and now has seven athletes competing in various competitions, said she wants to see the local White County powerlifting program grow and encourages anyone interested in competing in Special Olympics to contact her at the White County YMCA.
“I have watched athletes grow and do things they never thought they could accomplish but did,” she said behind her reasoning for being passionate about Special Olympics. “This has been the experience of a lifetime, and I hope to spend many more years doing this. We appreciate our hometown and could not do this without your support.”
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