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Setting Precedent

Colleen Costello

Special Olympics USA rhythmic gymnastics athlete Colleen Costello sets a precedent in every room she enters. An athlete leader, she takes her role seriously, which means setting an example for her peers and illustrating the mission of Special Olympics through action. She is the first athlete to serve on the Special Olympics Illinois Board of Directors and is in her second term. At the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, she set a precedent from her first routine, a mentality that earned her the first gold medal for Special Olympics USA.

“It feels great and it feels unusual because I’ve never had a gold medal from a World Games,” said Colleen. “I’ve only won a gold medal from other competitions. It feels great.”

She has spent the past 26 years working toward this awards podium, this medal. The majority of those years were spent with a focus on artistic gymnastics. Having graced the awards podium at the 2006 and the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, her sights were set on the next level. In search of a new challenge, she started training in rhythmic gymnastics last year, which would lead her to the Special Olympics World Games.

“I am so proud of her,” said Special Olympics USA head gymnastics coach Mary Fehrenbach. “She has worked really hard to get here.”

After receiving her medal, Colleen remarked, “It was really good, but the medal was really heavy. It was a heavy moment.” With her family and her team in the audience, she celebrated that victory with the ones she loves most.

The Special Olympics USA gymnastics team is an energetic one. “They crack me up and they say funny jokes,” added Colleen. Following her lead, her fellow gymnasts anticipate their day on the awards podium. When that day comes, she will return the sentiment, cheering them on. Back home, she cheers for her fellow gymnasts, advocating for improvements within the sport at a local level as a board member.

“For our state Games, they did not have a Level A in rhythmic gymnastics,” explained Colleen. “My mission was to say that we needed a Level A in rhythmic gymnastics. I added that to the report I made and now our state has it.”

The precedent set, athletes in her local program now have access to the sport at the level that suits them best. She will carry her gold medal back home, inspiring other athletes to pursue their dreams, to advocate for their abilities and to cheer others on along the way.