Family support is so important for a Special Olympics athlete. It helps build confidence, faith in oneself and often provides the security to try new activities and experiences.
For Lisa Menichino, family support is a two-way street. When asked what it meant to be in Austria at the 2017 World Games she said, "I am proud and honored to be competing not only in front of my family but for my family." Menichino did well by the family name, placing fourth in the 1K freestyle and winning gold in the 4 x 100 relay. As the second leg on the track for the 4 x 100 relay, Menichino was charged with increasing the lead set by the first teammate.
For four weeks prior to the competition, she trained hard on an elliptical, spent time in the pool building her endurance and constantly stepped into her roller skis working on pacing on trails at the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association.
The genuine love of the Menichino clan, who hail mostly from the Chicago area, is obvious. The gregarious cheering squad in Schladming at the Ramsau am Dachstein included 13 family members, mom Barbara, sister Michelle, brothers Bob, Tom and David and several others who had traveled to the competition from Illinois, Atlanta, St. Louis and the country of Wales.
"Having them here and at any event means the world to me but their cheers are sometimes distracting. I have to find a balance between feeling and feeding off their energy,” Menichino said.
Unfortunately, this will be Menichino's first and last World Games competition in cross country. A lack of participation in her area means that it will no longer be offered. For Menichino, she is facing this circumstance with grace, poise and a great attitude, "I am headed for a new adventure learning to snowshoe."