When swimming is your favorite sport, you do whatever it takes to get in the water.
That’s exactly what Special Olympics Onslow County athlete Jessica Martinez had in mind in March of 2017 when she started training in hopes of going to the 2017 SONC Summer Games. Carpal Tunnel may have put her in a cast, but it certainly wasn’t going to slow her down. She put a plastic bag over her cast and kept on swimming.
“It hurt, but it felt really great to do it and I felt accomplished,” expressed Martinez, who has Down Syndrome.
Not only was Martinez able to compete at the 2017 Summer Games, she also won three gold medals, one silver medal and a ribbon. The pride she felt after that weekend made it all worth it.
Though there are many qualities about her that make her an incredible athlete, teammate and friend, Martinez’s dedication stands out among the rest.
For 30 years, the Onslow County athlete has put 110% into all she does. From training and competing to her friendships to volunteering, Martinez sets an example everyone should strive to emulate.
“I can see Jessica’s heart in every aspect of her life,” explained Christina Aultman, Special Olympics Onslow County co-coordinator and Jessica’s longtime friend. “She wants to get in that water or get into the gym and better herself. It’s amazing to watch how she dedicates herself.”
When she isn’t working hard to better herself as an athlete, she is working to better her local program and community.
“She never misses an opportunity to volunteer at a local event or help raise funds,” said Aultman.
Martinez is a familiar face at local Cop-On-Top and Tip-A-Cop events put on by local law enforcement officers as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. A trained Global Messenger, Martinez loves to go out and share with her community why she loves participating in Special Olympics and how they can get involved.
When she isn’t helping her local program, Martinez is either working at the mess hall at Camp Lejeune or volunteering at the Arc and the Alzheimer’s Related Center where her dad lives. She spends four days a week at the Alzheimer’s Related Center helping residents feed themselves, playing games, or spending time just talking with residents.
There is never a dull moment for Martinez. She fills her days with the joy of sports, hard work, family and friends. And through all of these years as a Special Olympics athlete, she has made new friends, won many medals and made memories to last a lifetime.
Her favorite memory? The first time she won a gold medal in her favorite sport, swimming, of course!
“I went to a National Invitational in Puerto Rico and competed in freestyle,” explained Martinez. “I thought, ‘I did it!’ And when I stood on the medal stand and all the other countries were cheering me on, I felt great.”
Jessica Martinez doesn’t do anything halfway. Whatever goal she sets her mind to, she does her absolute best to reach. That kind of dedication is why she is not only a leader in her program, but a role model for each of us.
Congratulations on being named SONC’s 2017 October Athlete of the Month, Jessica!
Food: French Fries
Sports Team: NY Giants
Animal: Her dog, Taz!