Post written by Angela Hirsch, chief, Coast Guard Community Relations
LCDR Jason Smith was one of over 3,000 athletes to compete last month in Lincoln Neb., in the Special Olympics National Summer Games. His team, the DC Scandals, proved an indomitable force in the bocce competition in the Unified Sports program, winning two gold medals and one silver medal in team and doubles competitions.
In the relatively new Unified Sports program, athletes with and without intellectual disabilities compete in team sports alongside one another. LCDR Smith partnered with his friend and traditional Special Olympic athlete, Kevin Boyd. Kevin is an athlete with intellectual disabilities and cerebral palsy. He has been in Special Olympics for more than 20 years earning 53 medals, 23 of them gold.
“The goal of unified sports is to demonstrate to both the athletes with intellectual disabilities and those without that we can work together to achieve something,” said Smith.
After competing against teams from all over the US, the DC Scandals team earned its first gold medal in a comeback victory over the team from North Dakota. In the doubles competition, LCDR Smith and Boyd earned a spot in the top bracket, where they met none other than Scandals teammates Elaine Eisenbaum and Yentome Parker — the other D.C. doubles team. After three tough matches, LCDR Smith and Kevin took the silver, cheering their teammates’ gold.
LCDR Smith has been actively involved in Special Olympics for almost 20 years. He first volunteered with Special Olympics through a high school youth group at the New Hampshire Summer Games. Since joining the Coast Guard he has been a general volunteer, a coach, and what he considers the most rewarding aspect of the organization, a Unified Sports athlete. LCDR Smith plays in the D.C. basketball, bocce, bowling, and volleyball Unified Sports program and helps coordinate the annual D.C. Summer Games.
LCDR Smith also recruits Coast Guard members in the D.C. area to assist with various competitions throughout the year. For the past three years the Coast Guard has been the community partner for the D.C. Speed Skating competitions, providing all the volunteers to run the event.
This year’s Special Olympics National Summer Games hosted delegations from 49 states to compete in 13 different sports from traditional track and field to golf and power lifting. In addition to the Scandals, the D. C. delegation included athletes competing in track and field. In total the D.C. delegation came home with six gold medals, two silver medals, two bronze medals, and two fourth place ribbons.
“The entire week was an awesome experience, one of the best weeks of my life,” said Smith. “It was exciting, emotional, and tiring, all condensed into one, quick week. We were there to compete, have fun, and make friends. We did all that and more… and we’ll always have the memories.”