Local Special Olympian brings home bronze from World games

Published 10:25 am Saturday, April 20, 2019


By Mitchell Thomas

For the Washington Daily News

Beaufort County athlete Jonathan Willis brought home the bronze from Abu Dhabi and the 2019 The USA Special Olympics World games.

“It was just awesome,” the bronze medalist said about his Olympic experience. “I felt like the king of the world.”

Tuesday, Willis participated in the Beaufort and Hyde counties Special Olympics games at Washington High School, and after a fourth-place finish in his 100-meter race, he was eager to talk about his trip to the other side of the globe.

Willis participated in the World games’ 50-meter freestyle with a time of 1:13:04 to earn the bronze medal in the finals. That bettered his finals qualifying time of 1:17:43 three days prior. He also participated in the 25-meter backstroke. He qualified for the final event, and finished fourth in both events.

Beaufort and Hyde counties Special Olympics coordinator Eric Sedlacek said Willis’ appearance in the World games can inspire kids to strive to go further.

“It shows that everybody could potentially have an opportunity to go,” Sedlacek said. “As long as they’re coming out and practicing and participating with us, then they have an opportunity to go even higher than the state games.”

Willis, sporting his nifty white Team USA jacket, elaborated on his motivation, and all the things he received when he got there.

“I’ve been a fan of Michael Phelps ever since I started swimming. He’s been my role model ever since,” Willis said. “I got at least a $1,000-worth of Team USA-issued material. And on account of my Michael Phelps’ motivation, they gave us Michael Phelps (brand) custom-made swim trunks.”

This isn’t the only time an athlete from the Beaufort and Hyde counties area has had a representative that’s gone farther than the state level.

“It’s been about 10 years ago,” Sedlacek said. “We had somebody go to the USA games, but as far as World games, I’m not sure.”

Despite Willis’ world games experience, it didn’t stop his excitement to come back home and compete in the local games.

“It’s just the same thing,” Willis said. “I still have that same competitive spirit mojo in me, no matter where I’m at.”