In 1936, the Summer Olympics were awarded to Berlin. Their footsteps leaving a permanent indent on history, athletes, such as Jesse Owens, raced Olympiastadion Berlin’s track. That year, Owens became the first American track and field athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympic Games. Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) athlete Philip Blount IV is a self-proclaimed expert in this chapter of American history. Representing Special Olympics USA in athletics at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023, Philip will race the same track, his footsteps making their own mark.
“I’ve always wanted to go over there and see that stadium on a tour,” said Philip. “It’s going to be better than that, I’m going to be there competing.”
One of two SONC athletes selected to join the 201-member delegation that is Special Olympics USA, Philip will compete in the 4×100-meter relay, standing shot put and the 100 meter-run in June 2023. His 15-year career participating in Special Olympics athletics has led to this moment, a moment few will ever experience.
“Well, it was a big surprise,” remarked Philip. “Me and one of my friends have always joked about having the opportunity to go to World Games and compete.”
A joke that has manifested itself to reality, Philip attributes much of what he has been able to accomplish, regarding athletic and personal achievements, to the foundation built by his parents, Jane and Phil Blount. The couple, in partnership with educator Barbara Parrish, founded Philips Academy in 2005, a Charlotte-based nonprofit school for students in middle and high school with complex language, learning and/or cognitive disabilities.
“It’s been amazing to see our personal situation shared and then to see all of the students doing so well and becoming successful, independent members of our community,” said Jane, Philip’s mother.
Comprised of 19 faculty members and 60 students, many of whom are active in Special Olympics Mecklenburg County programming, Philips Academy is preparing students, like Philip, to enter the workforce and live independently. Five days a week, Philip works in the cafeteria at Charlotte Christian School, serving and helping to prepare lunches for its students. He lives independently, taking care of his cat, Cowbell.
On an ordinary workday in October 2022, Philip was surprised by SONC staff, family members and friends, announcing his selection to compete in the World Games.
“This is the most attention that I’ve ever gotten,” said Philip.
In preparation for the World Games, Philip trains two days a week after work with Ralph Jones, who is the head track and field coach at Charlotte Christian School. At the Special Olympics USA Team Trials in San Antonio, Texas, held in November 2022, Philip was introduced to his teammates and his coaches.
“He works hard and enjoys it,” said Jane. “His favorite event is the 4×100-meter relay. To watch him run and practice with his teammates, that’s the one that matters to him the most.”
Accompanied by his teammates, uniformed in red, white and blue, Philip will step foot on Olympiastadion Berlin’s track, representing his country, representing what it means to achieve what some can only dream of.
“What made the stadium known to us Americans was the athlete Jesse Owens,” explained Philip. “He’s one of the few guys who made history, he made it happen. I’m going where history took place, it’s a monumental situation.”
It’s a monumental situation and it’s a monumental step, one that Philip will not take lightly.