Grace Knechtle, a tennis player from New Canaan and an employee of Walter Stewart’s Market, is practicing and preparing to represent Connecticut at the 2014 Special Olympics U.S.A. Games which will take place in New Jersey from Saturday, June 14, to Saturday, June 21.
She is one of 76 athletes and Unified Sports Partners (athletes without intellectual disabilities who train and compete with their peers with intellectual disabilities) selected to be part of Team Connecticut for the games. She hopes to come home with the gold — a feat which she has achieved many times before.
Nearly 3,500 athletes will compete in 16 Olympic-style team and individual sports, with the support of 1,000 coaches, 10,000 volunteers and 70,000 family, friends and spectators. The Special Olympics USA Games will celebrate the Special Olympics movement, promote the ideals of acceptance and inclusion through sport and showcase athletes from throughout the U.S., and the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. The games will also highlight Special Olympics’ work in sport, education, health and communities.
Knechtle first became involved with Special Olympics in 1992, when she heard about the organization from her brother. She has made friends from all over Connecticut by participating in the Special Olympics’ bowling program, and practicing with her tennis team which meets every Saturday morning at Darien High School.
She has made another special connection through Special Olympics with Lyn Nevins, her Unified Partner for tennis. Nevins is not only Grace’s tennis partner, but also her hero, according to Knechtle. “She is kind, patient, respectful and an awesome tennis player!” Knechtle said.
She is no stranger to the game. She has been playing all her life and has won many medals since she started with Special Olympics. The only motivation she needs is her love of the game, according to a release. “She loves getting out and hitting tennis balls almost as much as she loves winning gold medals.” She said that participating in Special Olympics has brought “even more happiness into my life.”
courtesy of the New Canaan Advertiser.