Columbia Team Wins Bocce Gold

1 decade 1 year 1 month ago Sunday, October 14 2007 Oct 14, 2007 Sunday, October 14, 2007 6:14:11 PM CDT October 14, 2007 in News
"A unified partner is someone who's not an athlete that works with an athlete...a Special Olympic athlete," Stephens said.

Bocce ball sets include larger ones and one small white ball called the pallino.

"The object of bocce ball is to get your four and a half inch ball as close as you can to the pallino," Frank La Mantia, a Bocce Ball Coach, said.

The athletes have won area, district, and state competitions to advance to go to Shanghai to compete.

"I was speechless. But at the same time, I was pretty glad too," Belseme said.

"The joy you see in their faces is all the motivation anybody would need," Stephens said.

But joy is not always on Harry's face.  He lost his mother a few years ago to cancer, and struggles daily with a disability some people don't see.

"Harry has autism traits, so he's very nervous. He's very worried about going to Shanghai. He has to know what the next step is so we've been working on that. Harry we don't know sometimes but here's what we do know. Harry's not one to show excitement. I said Harry are you getting a little excited about your trip? And he said yeah...with a smile, and it's not very often you get a smile out of Harry," Susan Shaffer of Missouri's Special Olympics said.

"Harry keeps telling me, you think I'll be doing fine there and I say yes you will. You will," La Mantia said.

At 3:30 Missouri time Monday morning, Harry once again rose to the top.  The team won a gold medal, defeating Hong Kong 12 to 6. But to Belseme and Stephens, rare expressions beam even brighter than Olympic Gold.

Belseme works at a grill on the MU campus, and Stephens is semi-retired and also has a special needs son.

After winning the gold against the Chinese, Belseme raised both fists in the air in pure joy.

"Is this a dream?" he asked.

"Yes," Stephens replied. "This is a dream come true."

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