In itself, coaching is a heavy lift. Special Olympics USA assistant powerlifting coach Nina Weston is accustomed to the weight. As a certified personal trainer, she established her coaching resume prior to learning about Special Olympics. At the Sparta-White County Family YMCA in Tennessee, she is the fitness and wellness director. In addition, she is a conditioning coach, a group fitness instructor and aquatics instructor.
In the six years she has coached powerlifting, she has never experienced anything quite like Special Olympics World Games. To start coaching for Special Olympics, all it took was a simple question. Would she be willing to train an athlete? She agreed.
“It’s my first time on an international stage, I am so extremely proud of all of them,” said Nina. “We have had some pretty special moments.”
Too many to count, she is grateful for every win they have earned as a team. On Wednesday, June 21, Special Olympics USA powerlifting athlete Bobby Hill won a silver medal in the deadlift and squat events, as well as a silver medal in the combined squat, bench press and deadlift event. He claimed gold in the bench press event, and the crowd went wild. The front row, lined with Special Olympics USA athletes, coaches, Unified partners and supporters, made sure that all anyone could hear was Bobby’s name.
“Just watching the awards, when he finished his lifts, it was special,” said Nina. “We have had some pretty special moments.”
Watching those moments happen, she has learned that anything is possible. Some Special Olympics USA representatives come from impossible circumstances. The challenges they face seem insurmountable, the weight placed in front of them too heavy to carry. Special Olympics USA powerlifting Brian Beirne is familiar with the hard work it takes to overcome. After suffering a traumatic brain injury at a young age, Brian spent years in physical and occupational therapy. Brian relearned how to talk, walk and eat with the help of family, therapists, teachers and coaches. At the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, he is leaving with three medals and a ribbon.
“I was talking to his dad earlier and I was just in tears,” explained Nina. “Brian has a very special story. He has overcome so much, every one of them has a special story."
Sure, lifting weights can make someone strong. Lifting others up can make someone even stronger. That’s what Special Olympics USA powerlifting is about, sharing in carrying the weight together.
“They have fun together, they’re cheering each other on, they’re rushing the stage,” she beamed. “When these athletes come up and you’re having a bad day, it makes it all go away. To watch them come here and just shine, it’s amazing.”
The coming days will look no different. The cheers will get louder, the excitement will amplify, as they recognize the successes of each other and as a team. Following Closing Ceremony, Nina will return to her local Special Olympics powerlifting team as a stronger coach. As a team, they did the heavy lifting as one.