Evanston resident to compete in Special Olympics

Tori Latham, Reporter

An Evanston resident has been selected to be a member of the aquatics team in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games this June.

Caroline Colianne was chosen to compete on the Special Olympics Illinois delegation. She is eligible to compete in this year’s games because of “her gold medal-winning performance at the 2013 Special Olympics Spring and Summer Games,” according to a news release from Charliese Agnew, the community engagement specialist for Evanston. Colianne will compete in the 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter freestyle, 100-meter individual medley and the 4×50 meter medley relay.

“I’m excited to see how the competition is,” Colianne said. “I know that it’s going to be a lot harder than what I’m used to. As it gets closer, I’ve been getting a little nervous and a little scared.”

Colianne has been involved with Special Olympics Illinois since 2006. She first joined to run track, but soon started to practice swimming and basketball. She said she never had the goal to enter local or national competitions when she got into swimming.

“I had actually done track and field in high school and wanted to continue with my sports,” she said. “I wasn’t always good at swimming. When I first started, it didn’t come so easy to me, but I guess I got better, and now I’m going to nationals.”

Colianne trains with Leonard Woodson, Evanston’s special recreation program manager. He said working with Colianne as the Special Olympics head coach has been a joy and he wishes the best for her — even if she does not win her events.

“It’s like I tell all my guys, even if they don’t get a gold medal, if you can tell me at the end of the day that you left everything out there, then I’m most proud of you for that,” Woodson said.

Woodson said he remembered how anxious Colianne was when she began competing and has noticed her progress as an athlete.

“When she first started, her nerves were really rattling,” he said. “Fast forwarding to now, when she goes to meets, I don’t think the butterflies are nowhere near as bad as they were.”

Colianne said she is looking forward to the Special Olympics and will continue to train once she returns from it. Right now, she said she is mostly focused on the upcoming competition, but has some goals for the future.

“I’m hoping to go to state for track next year,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll get chosen for nationals again or not. It’s definitely a once in a lifetime thing.”

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