Journal Express, Knoxville, IA


May 17, 2012

Ottumwa Special Olympian determined to take his best shot

Dossey one of the southeast Iowans heading to Ames

OTTUMWA — Don’t focus on what you can’t do. Pay attention to the things you can do.

Tyler Dossey, a sophomore at Ottumwa High School, for example, can push an 8-pound iron ball more than 20 feet. For the past two weeks, he’s pushed that “shot” more than a hundred times. But he’ll only need one good throw Friday in the Iowa Special Olympics.

Tyler’s whole family is heading to Ames today to support him in his first Special Olympics. Other Wapello County residents are going to the Special Olympics as athletes or volunteers.

Tyler’s adventure started when his roommate told him how much he enjoyed running in the Special Olympics. Tyler started training two weeks ago. His strongest events were the 100-meter run and the shot put. He decided to focus on just the shot put.

“He hasn’t really been doing any weightlifting [to prepare],” said his coach, Andy Swedenhjelm.

Swedenhjelm, who is Tyler’s health teacher, agreed to train him during the student’s independent study time, which coincided with his own prep period. Tyler got lucky: Swedenhjelm is the Ottumwa High School track and field team’s discuss and shot put coach.

In addition to health, Tyler takes woods class and is in Junior ROTC. He does most of his work in his special education class.

Tyler has a competitive streak.

While the Special Olympics website says, “Our athletes ... teach us all about acceptance and understanding,” Tyler says he’s going to Ames to win.

“I’ll win a blue ribbon... I’ll win for my parents,” he said Wednesday.

Whatever the results are after 1 p.m. Friday, the student-athlete has already become stronger, he said. He’s also doubled the distance at which he started his “put” just two weeks ago.  

“It’s fun, and it’s easy [now]. This is what you have to do,” Tyler said, before demonstrating, one hand against his neck, the other arm up with the elbow bent. “You have to swing back, like this, then ‘twist’ like you’re hitting your sister.”

His coach blushed a bit at that, though Tyler said Swedenhjelm helped make training fun.

The Special Olympics’ website says through the athletics they’re capable of, people with disabilities learn to see themselves “for their abilities, not disabilities.”

The site also has testimonials from participants who say they like the opportunity to meet new friends. And for a moment, that’s what it sounded like Tyler was saying. But he hadn’t said “meet.”

“Beat ... I’m excited to beat other people up there.”

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