By Lauren Wanko
Team New Jersey Flag Football walked onto the field this morning, hand in hand, for their final medal game for the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.
“For some of these athletes, this is their Super Bowl,” said Coach Neal Plasky.
The USA Games marks the first time these 10 athletes have played together as a team. In the past, they’ve all played against each other in the Special Olympics New Jersey football league. Now they’re united.
“We’re a family. We play as at team,” said player Kevin McCormac.
“So getting them together and building as one unit and getting them to trust each other and like each other and back each other up, that’s been the greatest joy that we’ve had,” said Plasky.
There are 20 flag footballs teams within the USA Games. Earlier this week, all the teams played several games to determine their placement in divisions based on ability levels. There are medals for each division given right here.
After Team New Jersey’s game, their moment finally arrived on the stage. Each player beamed with pride as the silver medal was placed around their neck.
“It feels amazing! It feels good on me. I think I deserve it,” said Ramond Labella.
Teammates and brothers Ramond and Michael Labella plan to wear their medal all weekend.
It was a moment of celebration for all the athletes. Some danced off the stage in excitement. Others were brought to tears.
When asked why he was crying, Team Oklahoma player Anthony Deaton said, “Because we won.”
Team Minnesota, who competed in Division 3, is bringing home the silver.
“I feel honored to be part of this team,” said Minnesota player Tom Strom.
Team Delaware’s Seth Lampkins is thrilled to nab the bronze. He doesn’t mind it’s not the gold.
“It doesn’t matter to me. I won a medal, that’s all that matters,” he said.
“This is a thrill. It’s awesome, a wonderful feeling to win a medal. First medal I’ve ever won,” said Marko Hubbell and Eric Potts.
And there’s a good chance it may not be the last for any of these champions.