“I am very excited.”
Special Olympics Cherokee County athlete Shakaela Sudderth has every reason to be excited. Competing in athletics, Shakaela will represent Team Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida, held June 5-12. In all she does, Shakaela radiates positivity, a quality she will be channeling throughout her time at the Games.
“I’m happy and excited for her,” said Janet Sudderth, Shakaela’s grandmother. “I’m just thrilled that she got chosen. She said to me, ‘Nana, I might not win this time.’ I said, ‘You’re already a winner to be chosen.’”
Shakaela began training and competing in Special Olympics in the sixth grade. Following her eighth-grade year, she attended the 2018 SONC Summer Games in Raleigh, North Carolina. Running in the 100-metre race, she walked off the track with a gold medal. In the 100-metre walk, she brought home the bronze.
“Special Olympics gives me something to look forward to,” said Shakaela. “It gave me a drive to win. I enjoy being with people. I like getting the medals.”
This year, she will compete on a national stage, still chasing the gold medal. Her fans in Cherokee County will be cheering her on, every meter of the way.
“It just means everything to me,” said Shakaela. “I am so excited to have the opportunity to do this.”
Special Olympics Cherokee County is supported by Local Program Coordinator Susanne Parker. Parker, one of her many fans, has a front-row seat in watching Shakaela’s race to achieve gold.
“Shakaela has a great attitude,” said Parker. “She works hard and loves participating with others and competing, although she really also enjoys meeting others and making new friends. She likes to win, but she is also a great sport about competition.”
No stranger to making her family and friends proud, Shakaela’s attitude and high-spiritedness transcend the track. Outside of Special Olympics, she serves as an usher at her church, assists in preparing meals and helps her neighbors. For Shakaela, maintaining a healthy exercise regimen is a priority, which means daily walks. Daily exercising also means a daily dose of dancing to her favorite celebrity, Taylor Swift. In regard to celebrity status, Shakaela is well on her way.
“I am ecstatic and so excited to go to Disney,” said Shakaela. “They tell me I am a star. I’m going to be a grand champion. Everyone is proud of me.”
In June, Shakaela and her teammates will compete at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, located in the Walt Disney World Resort. Long before she steps foot on the starting line, she will have made her family, her county and herself more than proud.