Neil Riding wins medals
at Utah Special Olympics
EPHRAIM— Ephraim native Neil Riding took two gold medals in this year’s Utah Special Olympics at Utah Valley University.
The event, held June 8 and 9, drew more than 800 participants from all over the state.
“It’s an event that everyone at some point in their life ought to see,” said Margaret Riding, his mother. “It makes you so grateful for the teams that advocate for kids with disabilities.”
The Special Olympics give people with intellectual disabilities opportunities to compete in a variety of sports, including swimming, track and field and softball.
Riding competed in four events, and took gold medals in the 25-meter dash and softball throw. He also took bronze in the 100-meter dash and fourth place in the 50-meter dash.
When he won, he reacted “like a champion,” according to his mother. “Like, ‘Yes!’”
He’s been competing in the Special Olympics for three years. He began playing basketball in middle school, high school and church teams. When he moved to Orem, he started running on a nearby middle school track. “He just got to be pretty fast,” said Margaret.
The Special Olympics were first organized in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who saw that many children with intellectual disabilities were excluded from sports teams and other activities. The first event was held in Chicago, with about 1,000 athletes total competing. Fifty years later, over 4,000 athletes and coaches will be competing at the national level, with many more competing in state tournaments.
“It’s a marvelous opportunity,” his mother said, “…we’re just grateful that he’s able to be a part of a world of sports, where there is competition and he’s able to excel in his field.”