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Three Gautier powerlifters make USA Special Olympics team

Three young powerlifters got the surprise of their lives Tuesday. They'll now be the first athletes to represent their community at the Special Olympics.
Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 10:42 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 7, 2021 at 10:43 PM CST
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GAUTIER, Miss. (WLOX) - Three young powerlifters received a surprise of their lives Tuesday afternoon at a Gautier gym.

Connor Tingle, Rikyla Shay and Abby Spangler are going to the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.

Family and friends kept the news a surprise until announcing it during a celebratory gathering at Gulf Coast Fitness.

“I get more satisfaction when I see somebody I train make it,” said Pete Birchfield, one of Abby’s two trainers.

Abby and Rikyla are now the first females to represent Mississippi in the U.S. games.

“Girls can do powerlifting, too,” Abby said. “I’m a little nervous actually, but I’m excited, too.”

All three athletes will be representing the state in powerlifting.

They are the first three to ever qualify from the coastal area.

“You know, you got to put it all on the table,” Connor said. “You only got to do that in the meet one time. So, you give it everything you can for one time.”

The group has been training since June. They competed and qualified at the fall games in October.

“We all went up there not knowing what to expect,” said powerlifting coach Bailey Cuevas. “They all did a great job, I thought. All the coaches said that we did a great job with technique.”

Cuevas began working with the group at Gautier High School.

“We do a lot of 3x5′s, 3x3′s with them and work a lot of core and push them just like we push any athlete,” he said.

The 2022 Special Olympics will kick off on June 5 in Orlando, uniting more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean, according to the website.

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