Parent of Special Olympian Expresses Pride in Daughter's Accomplishments

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PALMVIEW - A Palmview mother said she has enormous pride in her child's accomplishments at the Special Olympics. Her daughter has won over a hundred medals over the

Twenty one-year-old Viva Selena Lopez has Down Syndrome. She has not let it hold her back. She is a devoted participant in year-round Special Olympics bowling and track events.  She started eight years ago and her family cheers her on.

Mary Jane Lopez noted raising a child with intellectual disabilities is not what others may think. She said something about her daughter stood out.

"She's always been very athletic for everything and very competitive. Very competitive! Even pageants, everything she does," she said.

Lopez began participating in Special Olympics when she started high school. She won several events and seems to specialize in her favorite sport - bowling.

Her mother said her daughter learned life lessons through these athletic competitions.
 
"They're learning how to communicate, how to have sportsmanship. Sometimes she cries. When she gets a ribbon, she knows she's not going to state. So, she'll start crying. But I'll tell her, 'It's ok, it's ok,'" she added.

Viva said these competitions have helped her in many ways, including developing the ability to get along with friends.

"Yeah we're happy, yeah. They're my friends," she said.

Viva's mother said her daughter cannot participate in Special Olympics with her school, Palmview High School, because she has graduated. She said she is looking for an adult day care to sponsor Viva or looking into becoming a coach herself so her daughter can continue to participate in the games.

A coach for the Rio Grande Valley chapter of the Special Olympics said Valley athletes tend to impress at the state level.

"Some of the athletes, they're beyond words as they go about carrying themselves along the sport. You can see these athletes and they perform to their best," said coach Ytszel Trinidad.

Trinidad said the sports help the participants get better at sports and at life.

"They do grow as a person and someone that may be out there socially. Physically, they get their therapeutic through the training it takes to throw a bowling ball, kick a soccer ball, shoot a basketball. They grow physically being out there training on a day to day basis," she added.

Trinidad said her job as a coach is to encourage Special Olympians to just keep pushing themselves.

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