Special homecoming

Boster, Walsh return to Juneau after 2003 World Summer Games

Posted: Monday, July 07, 2003

Two local athletes received a warm welcome when they returned home last week from the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland.

Michelle Boster and Nathan Walsh of Juneau arrived home on July 1 after being among 34 representatives (18 athletes) from Alaska at the week-long event that took place June 21-28. The 2003 World Summer Games featured more than 7,000 participants and 160 international teams.

The event's opening ceremonies on June 21 featured performances by U2, Samantha Mamba and Riverdance, as well as "good luck" messages from Jon Bon Jovi, Arnold Schwarzenegger and actor Colin Ferrell, while former South African president Nelson Mandela gave the opening speech.

Boster, 23, competed in the track and field events, where she won a gold medal from her heat in the 100-meter run, a bronze medal in the 4x100-meter relay and a fourth-place ribbon from the 200 meters.

Walsh, 26, competed in bowling and took home a fourth-place ribbon from his singles competition.

The Juneau athletes competed for Team USA-Northwest in Ireland. They were joined on the squad by two athletes from Ketchikan - Joshua Cohen and Jamie Fitzgerald.

Cohen, 16, competed in bowling, where he won a bronze medal in the singles competition, a silver medal in the unified doubles event and a silver medal in the unified (four-person) team event. In some events, Special Olympians compete with unified (able-bodied) partners.

Fitzgerald, 18, won a gold medal in the shot put, won a bronze medal in the 4x100-meter relay and took fifth place in the 400 meters.

Fitzgerald's younger brother, Adam, 15, also traveled to Ireland as a unified partner in bowling, but no results were listed for him on the event's Web site.

"As a Unified Partner, I can be a role model for the athletes in helping them improve their sports ability," the Team USA Web site quoted Adam Fitzgerald in his profile. "They are often role models for me when it comes to attitude and living with a challenge. I respect the Special Olympics oath. I've come to understand that how you play is what is most important. Special Olympics has brought me closer to my disabled sister."

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