BOWLING GREEN — Wood County is sending a brother-sister team of athletes to compete in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in Princeton, N.J.
Jason Rupert, 23, and Katie Rupert, 24, will compete in cycling and swimming at the games, which run from Sunday through Friday.
“I’m feeling very excited,” Mr. Rupert said.
The siblings have been training together at Wood Lane, the organization that assists Wood County residents with developmental disabilities and runs the Wood County Special Olympics, for the last 13 years.
There are 450 athletes involved in the Wood County Special Olympics who train in 12 sports year-round.
Although the two are proficient at both cycling and swimming, they will compete in one sport each. Mr. Rupert will swim the 100-yard freestyle, 50-yard breaststroke, 50-yard freestyle, and anchor the 4 x 25 medley relay. Endurance is Miss Rupert’s strong suit: she will cycle the 2K, 5K, and 10K time trials.
“I like the longer ones,” Miss Rupert said of her cycling races.
The Ruperts have helped each other out by cross-training together where they make a good team — a friendly sibling rivalry pushes them to be the best.
“We’ll swim one day, and I’ll ride my bike the next,” Miss Rupert said.
The games are also a great opportunity for the Ruperts to meet other dedicated athletes and friends at local and regional Special Olympics competitions. They have had two chances to meet the other national participants from Ohio at statewide gatherings in Columbus where the athletes get to know one another and share stories.
“More often than not you get to stay friends with those people,” Patty Rupert, their mother, said.
There are other perks to being chosen for the national games as well. The Ruperts will fly to New Jersey on a private jet Saturday, something that Mr. Rupert was more nervous about than the competition itself.
“At first it was kind of nerve-wracking,” he said. He has since gotten over the fear of flying on the private jet, and he is excited to be traveling without his coach to supervise him.
“The athletes have to be able to be very independent,” Mary Sehmann, their coach, said.
Their parents also praised the siblings for their good sportsmanship and work ethic and Miss Rupert summed up her philosophy.
“You go there, you have fun at the competition, and if you win a medal that’s great, and if not you had a good time,” she said.
Mr. Rupert agreed that staying focused, doing his best, and having fun were all important, but he has another goal as well.
“Bring home the gold,” he said.
Contact Stephen Gruber-Miller at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6050, or on Twitter @sgrubermiller.