Confidence in Sports and Life
November 18, 2013
“I feel stronger. I can run faster. I can do it on my own and I never give up.” This is what Special Olympics athlete Molly Hincka will tell you is the secret to her confidence, her training and the joy of running -- all the way to her first marathon!
Molly was eight when she was introduced to Special Olympics and it changed everything. Her mother remembers: “When we walked onto the track for the first time with Special Olympics, the parents were really friendly, the coach was fantastic and our whole family started running and playing. We knew we had found a good place for all of us.”
Learning to Walk
As a baby, Molly was diagnosed with a developmental delay and the doctors said she would never walk or talk. Her mother, Kerry, explains, “She couldn’t walk because of weakness and coordination. When I would pick her up, her legs would curl under and not support her.
“We jumped into action with physical therapy twice a week. And we used a standing frame that I would strap her into an hour a day to enable her bones and feet to bear weight. I would sit in front with activities on a tray to keep her entertained. “From this we transitioned from crawling to a walker with braces and beyond. She was walking by age four and talking by the time she went to kindergarten!
“We are an athletic family, so when she was seven, I enrolled Molly in a community soccer group that had been good for her older brother. But it was hard to watch her carefully set up to kick the ball and have another player kick it away before she was ready.”
A Chance to be a Champion
She adds, “In contrast, Special Olympics was a dream come true. She was accepted for who she was. Those first years of track were the inspiration for her to become the runner, golfer, basketball and soccer player she is with Special Olympics today.”
Kerry tells us, “In Molly’s first competition (a 50-yard dash) at age eight, she rounded the bend of the track, and the coaches had tears streaming down their faces. We all saw the joy on her face.” Today, Molly is 22 and plays Special Olympics sports every season. In addition, she runs every day and works out with her parents, brothers and younger sister Charlotte, who is also a Special Olympics athlete.
Molly was chosen to compete in the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece, where she won three medals: the bronze for the 5,000-meter; the silver for the 3,000-meter; and another bronze for the 4x400 relay.
She hasn't stopped since then. Last New Year's Eve, she told her family that her goal for 2013 was to run in a marathon. She's been training ever since, including a run in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics across the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan.
Molly recently achieved her goal -- completing the Detroit Free Press International Marathon, with her longtime coach P.J. Sapienz by her side. Despite the odds, she finished what she set out to accomplish. And she's ready to accomplish a whole lot more.
No Stopping Molly
Molly is known for her “kick” where she speeds up at the end of a race. And this is how she goes about her life. Five days a week, Molly goes to a community program where she learns job training and social skills. She works with preschool children, bakes and packages dog biscuits for local pet stores. And she sings in the high school choir every Tuesday night.
“Molly and Charlotte are like pebbles dropped in water. They circle out and influence so many people from our own family, to our church, their schools and into the community.” Kerry says, “With Special Olympics, Molly learned she could succeed at sports. That gave her the confidence to try out other sports and activities in life.”
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