Apolo Ohno Podcast Interview
Learn what what Apolo Ohno learned from sports and more on this episode of Special Chronicles!
Learn what what Apolo Ohno learned from sports and more on this episode of Special Chronicles!
Daniel Cramer was born on the 25th of June in 1999. He was born six weeks early, but he quickly gained strength and met all his growth milestones on time. Sadly, though, when Daniel turned two, he had his first seizure. He lost all his speech and muscle tone and, suddenly, he was not the little boy we had come to know. After going from doctor to doctor, Daniel was finally diagnosed with Autism, developmental delay, and seizure disorder. It took many years of work to get him to talk again and socialize. When Daniel turned eight, we introduced him to Special Olympics Illinois and the rest is history.
Daniel started bowling and, he loved it so much, he started playing other sports too. He now participates in Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Track and Field, Tennis, Golf, Volleyball, Powerlifting and Snowshoeing, and is still always looking for more sports to play.
In powerlifting, Daniel can bench 165 pounds, and he lifts 360 pounds in the dead weight competition. He and his family feel that powerlifting has given Daniel the strength to do well in all his sports. In the last 12 years of competing, he has earned over 140 medals!
As a highlight of his Special Olympics Illinois career, Daniel was chosen to represent Team USA in the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi. He and his brother Ryan competed in Unified Bocce at the games. He had the experience of a lifetime meeting other athletes from around the world and making many new friends, many of whom he continues to communicate with through Facebook. Daniel made everyone very proud when he won gold, silver, and bronze medals for Team USA!
When Daniel came home, he was honored by the Mayor of Round Lake Beach at a groundbreaking Heroes ceremony. He also went to Springfield and was honored by Governor Pritzker during a luncheon at the Governors Manson.
Along with great sports skills, Daniel also demonstrates leadership skills, as well. For example, after he graduated high school, there wasn’t a local basketball team on which Daniel could play, so he decided to start his own team! He got six friends to join, found a local, indoor court to use and, with the help of his mother/coach, team “Independent Remarc‐a‐Bulls” was formed. This season, the team was undefeated and qualified for state!
Daniel continues to play as many sports as he can and, during this uncertain time, he is participating in the online “School of Strength” challenge to stay strong and healthy. Speaking of healthy, Daniel is also a Health Messenger for Special Olympics Illinois and he takes it very seriously. He wants to keep all of his fellow athletes fit and healthy, too, and extends his own challenge to all of them…“Will all my fellow athletes please take the challenge and keep fit in this time of social distancing.”
Well said, Daniel, and congratulations on all of your success. Thank you for setting a wonderful example for your fellow athletes, peers, and everyone!
Saneatha has been a participant with Special Olympics Illinois through PTOEC since 2014. She began in gymnastics and quickly added bowling, swimming, softball, volleyball, and basketball. We quickly realized how athletic she was and how sports became her passion. But her love of sports was not what caught our attention. Saneatha almost instantly became a social being amongst her peers making friends quickly from near and far, which was something I never thought possible since she has always been someone who stays to herself.
Saneatha has quite the collection of medals from the past few years of competitions. She has been to state competitions in Bloomington for Gymnastics and Basketball, Decatur for Softball, and Rockford for Volleyball. Her most memorable moments were from 2018 and 2019. During this time, she participated in the Belleville Polar Plunge, Summer Games, Outdoor Sports Festival, State Basketball, and Fall Games. She also participated in Gymnastics at the 2018 USA Games in Seattle, WA bringing home 5 gold medals! Saneatha met a tremendous amount of people during her stay at USA Games from celebrities to other athletes to many fans. I remember telling her to hold on to these moments and cherish them because it would probably never happen again. However, just a few short months after returning home we received a call inviting her to the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi as a level 4 gymnast for Team USA!
Traveling to the Middle East was never on her bucket list, but Special Olympics Illinois, once again, found a way to show her what she was missing. During this trip, Saneatha and the rest of Team USA left a few days earlier than families to learn and enjoy the customs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi before having the jitters of competition. It was this trip that made everything come together for us as parents and her as an athlete. As we sat at Opening Ceremonies watching the parade of athletes from all around the world, I finally realized my child who has struggled with acceptance, learning, speaking, socializing – this list can go on and on – is truly happy on the inside and out. She walked in that parade like she owned the place! During awards, she was thrilled to just be there, but when the last medal was announced for her division she began to cry. She realized she placed 1st in the world in the Vault competition. She received 3 bronze, a 4th place ribbon, and her Gold. This was her moment along with thousands of others.
During the fantastic and unbelievable year of 2018, Special Olympics was also celebrating its 50th year anniversary. Saneatha wanted to go to Chicago for the event, but we were unable to attend due to the hectic schedule the year brought us and USA Games just days before the 50th celebrations. We still celebrated within ourselves and said a silent thank you to the young lady this wonderful organization has helped her become. We now look at sports as a way for people to come together, lift others up, and celebrate the victories of life instead of dwelling on the defeats.
-Samantha’s parents, Robert and Tara Edwards
One of my top highlights was when I, along with my fellow SSIGM’s, had the opportunity to participate during the Opening Ceremony which aired on live television. On the global stage, there were 6 speakers, including Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, and fellow SSIGM Hasseeb Abbasi from Special Olympics Pakistan. The remaining 9 SSIGM’s stood in a half-circle behind the speakers. This truly was an incredible experience to get the opportunity to stand on the global stage and wave to the crowd. As we were standing on the stage, we were accepted; we were included. And as The Determined, we stood on that stage at the Opening Ceremony as leaders of the Inclusion Revolution.
Another highlight was when Coca-Cola sponsored a luncheon for all of the SSIGM’s. This luncheon took place at the Li Jiang Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Mhutar Kent, the chairman of Coca Cola, was there and he along with Tim Shriver hosted us. Also in attendance at the Coca-Cola luncheon were members of the Shriver family and many celebrity global ambassadors for Special Olympics who we got to talk to such as Apollo Ohno, Michelle Kawn, Hannah Teter, Dikembe Mutombo, and Dale Moss to name a few. I had the opportunity to kick off the event with a brief speech thanking everyone for their support of all of us SSIGM’s. I then turned the program over to my fellow SSIGM’s to have each of them introduce themselves to all those who attended our luncheon. This luncheon was an incredible experience for us all to have lunch with many well-known personalities.
One of the major speaking opportunities I had during World Games 2019 was speaking at the Media Reception. In addition to the fact that the media reception had the best appetizers of all the receptions we attended (an added bonus to this highlight of my time at World Games), I spoke about inclusion in the media. I also thanked those in the media for coming to World Games and for covering the stories of my fellow Special Olympics athletes who were competing on the global stage. As a media professional myself (founder & host of podcasts on SpecialChronicles.com), I appreciated the fact that those in the media who attended this reception came up to me, after I spoke, and interacted with me. They showed me the power of inclusion. This is what the Inclusion Revolution is about and I’m thankful these members of the media understand why it is important to Choose To Include. I’m grateful the media helped to breakdown barriers, spread to the world our athlete stories and broadcast our athlete voices.
An additional highlight from my time at World Games 2019 was the Founders Reception we attended at the Emirates Palace Hotel (a 7-star hotel). This was a fun experience to interact with all in attendance, including tons of people asking to take photos with me and the rest of the SSIGM’s. Fellow SSIGM’s Ian and Emmanuel did a great job co-emceeing the event. A special treat at the Founders Reception was at the end of the program, all of the SSIGMs went on stage and invited Francis Sargent Shriver, the grandson of Tim Shriver, to join us on stage.
In addition to the speaking and meet & greet opportunities I had at receptions, I also was one of the SSIGM’s who hosted the Abu Dhabi Daily Show, a podcast series we produced from Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. I talked with Special Olympics Inc (SOI) board members, global ambassadors, and fellow athletes. During my time at World Games 2019, I hosted nine interviews.
A few highlights of the episodes of the Abu Dhabi Daily Show that I hosted include:
● Kiera Byland: from SO Great Britain who won 3 gold medals in cycling
● Mark Shriver: SOI Board member who spoke about Young Athletes, inclusion, and more.
● Fellow SSIGM Hanna Atkinson joined me at the Healthy Athletes venue to talk about the new Strong Minds discipline of Healthy Athletes.
● Apollo Ohno: Global Ambassador and 3x Olympic speedskater talked about health, inclusion, and World Games.
These were just a few highlighted episodes from the Abu Dhabi Daily Show. Be sure to check out the full episodes on SpecialOlympics.org — just search for “Abu Dhabi Daily Show”.
In addition to the sporting venues, receptions, and speaking opportunities I had during World Games, another fun highlight was the camel ride we took at sunset in the desert. First, let me tell you what a bumpy ride it is to be on top of a camel! When we first arrived, the camel got quite low. We then sat, two people per camel and all four camels were attached. We were then taken on a ride throughout the desert atop the two humps of the camel. This was a fun cultural experience we had of being in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
We also went on the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi and we went on multiple times (probably at least 10 times) as we closed the roller coaster down for the evening. That same evening after we went on the world’s fastest roller coaster we went to the YAS Marina Circuit, which was the same location of the cycling venue for World Games (and the same place where the Grand Prix auto race takes place). Many of my fellow SSIGM’s and I took place in a Unified cycling event at nighttime. It was a ton of fun to participate in this Unified cycling event.
Finally to conclude, I’m incredibly honored to have had the opportunity to attend Special Olympics World Games 2019 in Abu Dhabi as a SSIGM. The country of the UAE did an excellent job and was really organized throughout all the venues of the Games. I’m grateful for their support for all of the people of determination, a term that I hope more nations and regions throughout the world, including within our own region of North America, might start using. All the staff and volunteers were so kind and inclusive. This World Games 2019 experience was incredible and I’m thankful to all of you, our readers, who have had the opportunity to #MeetTheDetermined and to be unified through the coverage I hosted on the Abu Dhabi Daily Show, the fantastic coverage ESPN produced, and all of the additional coverage around the world. I hope you will always remember to #ChooseToInclude and #BeUnified!
In the Abu Dhabi Daily Show series, athlete leaders report on the events, people, and places at the 2019 World Games. The podcast series is hosted by several newly selected Sargent Shriver International Global Messengers, one of those being, our very own, Daniel Smrokowski.