Bringing home the gold

Published 8:38 pm Saturday, July 16, 2011

From left, Daryl Taylor, Rob Kelly, Kavelle Martin and T.J. Woolfork display their gold medals and trophies from the 2011 AAU Powerlifting Nationals in Las Vegas last weekend. Taylor, Martin and Woolfork are Suffolk Special Olympics athletes and Kelly is their coach. The national championship in Las Vegas was an open meet.

ZUNI – The Suffolk Special Olympics powerlifting practice on Saturday morning in a garage at the Zuni Presbyterian Homes was almost the same as the workout two Saturdays earlier, before the team went to Las Vegas for the 2011 AAU Powerlifting Nationals.

Kavelle Martin, Daryl Taylor and T.J. Woolfork were back to work, hard work, since with their chosen sport there really is no other way to describe a workout session. They each had important additions to their practice gear from their Vegas trip.

Martin, Taylor and Woolfork had their AAU Nationals gold medals and first-place plaques for their performances in the national championships.

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Making the titles and efforts more impressive, while there were disabled divisions at the AAU Nationals, it was a full, open meet, not a Special Olympics competition.

Martin, who lives in Zuni and works in Portsmouth, “rocked” said Rob Kelly, one of the team’s coaches.

She recorded a deadlift of 200 pounds, her best mark ever. Her AAU National gold goes with four state gold medals won in Richmond in June. Taylor and Woolfork are state gold medalists as well.

“Everyone did well,” Kelly said.

“Yeah, everyone did real good,” Taylor said.

“We were really proud of them,” Kelly said.

“The announcer talked with us in the morning (before the competition) and he was really nice,” Martin said. “He was a lifter, too, and he won three medals.”

Suffolk Special Olympics renewed acquaintances with friends they know from past meets, a power lifting team of National Guard members from Fairfax.

“We met so many new people. Everything really worked out well. The camaraderie in the sport, and at this meet, it’s great,” Kelly said.

“Everyone cheers everyone else on,” Martin said.

All three lifters had their events and their victories on Friday, the opening day of the meet, leaving plenty of time to explore Las Vegas.

“As soon as we were done, we went sightseeing,” Taylor said.

“We saw the Statue of Liberty,” Woolfork said. Presumably they saw the Vegas versions of the pyramids and Eiffel Tower, too.

Slot machines were favorites. The team saw a show featuring fire, fireworks and pirate ships sinking. In the MGM Grand, one of the best memories was the lions and tigers, including a tunnel where the lions are above and around the tourists.

“Then there was the buffet right?” Kelly said. “We had a little bit of everything.”

The trio brought home t-shirts and a few other souvenirs. Woolfork had new practice attire from the meet, a white bucket hat with “House of Pain – Ironwear” inscribed on it.

Even the flights back and forth across the country were valuable experiences. It was Martin’s first time on a plane.

“Daryl helped me,” Martin said.

“She was nervous at first, but then she was alright,” Taylor said.

Getting to the AAU World Championships in Orlando is “kind of in the air right now,” Kelly said.

“That’s still the plan, but pending financial support,” he said.

The combination of competition plus awesome vacation, and the gold medals don’t hurt one bit, clearly helps Suffolk Special Olympics bring more athletes on to the team.

Lee Umplett, who lifted with Kelly’s team until about a year ago and an injury, was back at practice Saturday with the goal of joining along on a fall trip to Orlando.

There are two more potential newcomers who’ve expressed interest just since the team’s return from Las Vegas.

Kelly has a team of 15 lifters in mind for next season. He’s working to expand the Suffolk Special Olympics tennis program. Area Director Michael Clark is working on forming a softball program. Anyone interested in any of the sports can contact Kelly at 771-7361 or Clark at 925-4797.