Around 140 athletes and Unified partners representing 14 Special Olympics Programs from the United States and the Caribbean took part in the 2023 Special Olympics North America (SONA) Tennis and Pickleball Championship.
Unified competition means individuals with intellectual disabilities or “Special Olympics athletes,” and individuals without intellectual disabilities or “ Unified partners” can train and compete together.
Multiple Special Olympics athletes from Watauga County, North Carolina, were among the top-performing groups at the championship held recently in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Athletes and Unified partners from throughout the United States and the Caribbean used to compete in singles and traditional and Unified doubles tennis. However, in 2023, a pickleball competition was added to the weekend, with athletes and Unified partners competing in traditional and Unified doubles competitions.
“A Wonderful Trip”
In Pickleball, Elizabeth Presnell and Trenton D’Agostino from Watauga County snagged a gold medal, while Elizabeth Presnell and Craig Lands (Unified Partner) from Watauga County also achieved a fourth-place ribbon in the Level 4 Unified Doubles for pickleball.
Coaches Richard Bennet and Brian Tallent of Mecklenburg County and Craig Lands and Roachel Laney of Watauga County were part of the team representing North Carolina and working with the other Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners.
Laney said, “The athletes performed very well. We were able to do a good job and had a wonderful trip.”
The event was held October 12-14.
Watauga County performed extremely well in the pickleball competition.
Its results in the 2023 Special Olympics North America Tennis and Pickleball Championship were as follows:
Level 4 Doubles
- Elizabeth Presnell/Trenton D’Agostino (Watauga County) – Gold Medal
Level 4 Unified Doubles
- Trenton D’Agostino/Mark Mashburn (Unified Partner) (Watauga County) – Silver Medal
- Elizabeth Presnell/Craig Lands (Unified Partner) (Watauga County) – Fourth-Place Ribbon
About Special Olympics North America
America has over half a million athletes participating in all 32 sports offered by SONA.
It is home to athletes from Canada, the Caribbean, and the United States.
Special Olympics is dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive, and respected members of society through sports training and competition.
About Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC)
Since 1968, the organization has used the transformative power of sports to improve the lives of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Nearly 40,000 athletes in North Carolina inspire thousands of coaches, sports officials, local program committee members, and event organizers involved in Special Olympics statewide.
SONC offers year-round training and competition in 20 Olympic-type sports on local and state levels, as well as health and wellness initiatives to increase access to community health resources for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Youth become agents of change through Unified Champion Schools, an education and sports-based program created by Special Olympics to build an inclusive environment among youth with and without intellectual disabilities as well as empower them to become youth leaders and make change in their community.
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