Nina Weston, fitness and wellness director for Sparta-White County YMCA, has been coaching powerlifting and Special Olympic athletes for the past six years. Recently, Weston earned the opportunity to represent Team USA as a coach at the Special Olympics World Games held in Berlin, Germany. This was about as big as a stage can get boasting over 6,500 athletes from 126 countries.
Preparing for these Olympic games brought challenges that forced Weston and the other coaches to incorporate unconventional training methods to help motivate their athletes while at the same time helping them improve. When asked about the athletes she coached for the World Games, Nina said she “didn’t focus on their disability, but on their ability.” Judging by Team USA’s accomplishments at the games including multiple athletes winning medals, it appears as though Weston’s strategy paid off.
Despite the successes and medals won at the games, Weston said she was most proud of how the athletes came together as a team and didn’t allow the odds or their unique obstacles stop them from competing. Weston mentioned one of her most memorable moments at the games was when one of her athletes, Brian Beirne, began crying after a successful lift. Weston mentioned that she had spoken with Brian’s father before the games who told her that at 3 years of age, Brian suffered a traumatic brain injury and rarely showed much emotion.
“Knowing his story and seeing him exhibit such raw emotions after his lift was great and what it’s all about”, Weston said.
She went on to say that the experience afforded her and the other athletes the invaluable opportunity to see and appreciate different cultures. She also mentioned that because of this experience, she better knows what it takes for aspiring athletes to get to that international stage of competition, both physically and mentally.
Weston said she was “grateful to Special Olympics Tennessee and Special Olympics USA for this opportunity” and stated that she was “proud to be a part of and share in this global movement.”
After working with these athletes and participating in this experience, Nina offered this advice, “Life can change in an instant, so wake up every day grateful for what you have and know that some have to fight harder, but still make it happen…don’t let anything hold you back.”
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