In any given room, Special Olympics USA cycling athlete Alisha Dey is not the loudest. Her smile says it all. At the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, you can find her in the front row at every awards ceremony. She’s not chanting, she’s not clapping, but she’s smiling, in awe of her fellow athletes.
Her first experience with Special Olympics was as a swimming athlete, but following her family’s move from Pennsylvania, she discovered cycling through Special Olympics North Carolina and has never looked back. Now living in Maryland, she’s pedaled all the way to the Special Olympics World Games. Her local cycling coach traveled to Berlin to watch her compete. As chance would have it, his son, Mark, is on the cycling team with Alisha. Randy Springuel has coached Alisha for nearly a decade. Since their first ride, she has come a long way.
“I have two athletes here,” said Randy. “I don’t know how I got this lucky. She’s a lot steadier and a lot faster on the bicycle. She has a very steady pace.”
A quiet, yet fierce, competitor, her competition is caught off guard as she soundlessly passes by. Crossing the finish line, that smile is deafening. She has trained hard to reach this moment, spending many an hour riding a few paces in front of her dad, who continuously encourages her to go faster.
“From a coaching perspective, she’s one of my quietest athletes,” said Randy. “But she is very hard working.”
In her years competing with Special Olympics North Carolina, Alisha was supported by Special Olympics Orange County local program coordinator Colleen Lanigan, who will never forget what makes her so special.
“Alisha was an eager youngster in our program, showing real determination to master skills,” remembered Colleen. “She had a quiet personality that masked the fire in her competitive spirit when it was time for competition. She was a child blossoming into her teenage years while with our program, which gave us a real opportunity to witness her maturation as a person and an athlete. Go, Alisha!”
Years ago, Alisha competed in a Special Olympics race in Delaware. During the race, she fractured her leg. What some would consider a determent from riding again, only served as motivation for Alisha to ride faster. In the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, she is riding as fast as she can, with the iconic Brandenburg Gate in her rearview.
“It’s exciting,” said Alisha’s mom, Mai Dey. “Especially at this venue, right at the Brandenburg Gate, it’s too exciting.”
And to an outsider, Alisha may not appear overly excited. But those that know her recognize that at the first sign of that smile, in her own way, she’s truly overjoyed.