Genesis Alvarez and Gianna Mrozek, both from Lincoln County, ran, jumped and threw their way to victory during the 2019 Special Olympics NC Summer Games. This is both athletes’ first year competing in any Special Olympics NC state-level event and they did not know what to expect nor what they would end up gaining from this experience.
What makes their experience even more special is that they are lifelong friends that were able to prepare for the Games together, as well as, cheer each other on. Alvarez and Mrozek both competed in three different Athletics competitions: standing long jump, softball throw, and the 50m dash.
At just nine years old, Alvarez has gained so much confidence in herself by training and competing. At school, she has become more outspoken because of the friends she has made and the people she has met through Special Olympics. After learning that she would be competing at the 2019 Summer Games, she told her friends at school and many were curious, wanting to learn more about what she was doing.
“I liked competing in the Summer Games. My favorite part was having fun,” said Alvarez.
In order to prepare for the competition, Alvarez had to practice and gain more skills within her sport. She did this by constantly practicing and perfecting her skills.
According to Alvarez and Mrozek, the best part about the Summer Games was being able to run and jump with their best friend. Alvarez and Mrozek knew each other from school but had a common entity of their love of sports.
“I love Special Olympics. My favorite part was running and the volunteers who walked me around. They were really nice. I also got to go and compete with my best friend, Genesis” said Mrozek.
At only eight years old, Mrozek took the 2019 Summer Games by storm, winning gold in softball throw, silver in the 50m dash, and bronze in the standing long jump.
“I took all of my medals to school the next day and showed them to my friends. They thought it was really cool and told me good job” said Mrozek.
Just like Alvarez, Mrozek trained very hard for her competitions. She practiced with her mom, sister and at school to make sure that she was prepared. She was happy that everybody in her family was able to see her compete, especially because of the obstacles she has overcome.
When she was born, several doctors told Mrozek’s parents, Nichole and Roman Mrozek, that she would never be able to walk. At the age of two, Mrozek defied the odds and sat up completely on her own. Remembering that moment, Nichole and Roman Mrozek felt such pride at being able to see their daughter running and jumping just six years after being able to sit up for the first time.
“She’s so determined. She’s just never given up and us as parents have never given up. We never thought of it as an option for her to not be able to run and jump. So, to see her compete in the Summer Games, it was amazing” said Nichole Mrozek.
Her father, Roman Mrozek, described the feeling as a “Godly experience.” Mrozek has definitely overcome a lot of obstacles and was able to show how far she has come during the Summer Games. This is a prime example of how Special Olympics athletes give it their all every day, on and off the field.
Alvarez and Mrozek have plans on competing in the 2020 Summer Games. They want to compete in swimming, bowling and volleyball.
“Gianna and I have bonded a lot because of Special Olympics and I am excited to compete again next year,” said Alvarez.