With excitement in his voice, Collins Clingman talks about his lifelong passion for the Green Bay Packers and Iowa Hawkeye football. The Ottumwa, Iowa, native also says he’s a season ticket holder for the local community college’s basketball team. He loves to watch games with his brother-in-law, and for more than 25 years, he’s participated in athletics, softball and bowling for Special Olympics Iowa. There’s no denying it: Clingman is in his element whenever sports are involved.
It's no wonder that the 34-year-old’s face lit up when talking about going to the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando (June 5–12). He’ll compete in three events with athletics—mini javelin throw, the 50-meter run and the 100-meter walk—and hopes to bring home the gold. “I love meeting new people and just competing,” says Clingman on a recent Zoom call.
When receiving the news that he was selected to attend, he describes the moment as overwhelming excitement. He’s been to Orlando before and really enjoys what the city has to offer—especially the magic that spreads throughout Disney World. But he’s never gone to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, which has 17 multiuse fields, 11 baseball and softball diamonds, and more than 700,000 square feet of playing space. As a huge sports fan, he is looking forward to stepping foot on the grounds.
Clingman has been preparing for this competition for a long time. “My brother Davis has been practicing the javelin with me, and my sister Mckenna has been walking with me,” he says.
In addition to training, Special Olympics gave each athlete a Fitbit to track how many steps they took each day as part of the USA Games Fitness Challenge. He has been walking and running for a while, but when it comes to the javelin throw, it’s new territory. “He’s always done softball,” says Clingman’s mother, Judy Clingman. “Javelin is fun, and it’s different. He started to throw the ball too far in softball, so they switched a lot of the athletes that used to do softball into the mini javelin. This is kind of a new field for everybody, but he’s really liking it.”
Clingman adds, “My coach tells me to throw to the sky.”
In the lead up to the Games, Clingman has enjoyed some of the fun activities Special Olympics has set up for the athletes. Members of the Special Olympics Iowa USA Games delegation were invited to an Iowa Cubs game, a Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. They went out on the field, and Clingman was in awe of how big and nice the field was in comparison to the ones he used to play on. “I was introduced on the field,” Clingman says. “It was the first time getting to meet some of the other athletes that will be going to Orlando.”
Since Clingman first started Special Olympics as an 8-year-old, he has thrived in his respective sports. Now it’s his much-deserved moment on the big stage at the USA Games.