Volusia Special Olympics athletes had a great time at a fast pace

ORMOND BEACH — Jeff Beebe brought a few books and his laptop to kill time in his hotel room.

But during his 10 days in Orlando for the Special Olympics 2022 USA Games, none of them were open. He only watched a few minutes of a movie on television during his limited free time.

“Our week has been really uninterrupted,” said Beebe, assistant stand-up paddleboard coach for Team Florida and coach of several other sports in Volusia County.

Waking times happened before 5am on some days and bedtimes weren’t always early.

“There were a few nights where we only got four hours of sleep,” said Margaret Tambini, also an assistant paddleboard coach and mother of local athlete Richard Tambini.

These are not complaints. Just facts. For Beebe, Tambini and others in Volusia County, the long days were worth it.

Five athletes from Volusia County competed in the United States Games June 3-12 and won six medals combined, including two gold.

The games brought together more than 5,500 athletes from all 50 states and other Caribbean countries. Athletes could only participate in one sport. They qualified based on past scores from state competitions and were placed in a draw for the USA Games.

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Ember Dubea, stand-up paddle

At times over the past few months, Ember Dubea wanted to quit.

She got involved in Special Olympics through Spruce Creek High School three years ago, originally starting out in bocce before turning to stand-up paddleboarding. She is now 21 years old.

“At first it looked like she was going to do it just for fun,” said Jim Dubea, Ember’s father. “Then she really had a competitive spirit.”

But she has struggled a lot, including the death of her mother last February.

“Towards the end, what we really explained to him was, ‘This is something your mom wanted you to do,'” Jim Dubea said. “’If you quit, it’s not the right thing to do. Just remember that your mother wanted you to do this and she was very proud of you for it. She really hung on to that, I think.

Jim Dubea also credits Beebe for keeping Ember motivated.

“Ember is very focused,” Beebe said. “When she’s ready to focus on anything, she’s going to do it.”

Dubea did it in Orlando. She competed in her 800 meter qualifying event on Tuesday June 7 and the final event two days later, finishing first to win the gold medal.

“I mean Thursday was the best I’ve ever seen her do,” Jim Dubea said. “I was really proud of her.”

Taineira Rivera holds her gold and bronze medals from the American Games in Orlando last month.

Taineira Rivera, swimming

Taineira Rivera almost didn’t go to the USA Games.

She qualified and was picked for the games months ago, but they had a vaccination warrant and Rivera didn’t get the shot. She stopped practicing and planning to go.

Then, on Friday, June 3, Rivera’s mother, Waneira Garcia, received a phone call from a Florida team coach. The vaccine mandate had been abandoned.

“She said, ‘Start packing,'” Garcia said. “So we were running here and there… (Rivera) was all excited.”

They rushed to Orlando the next day.

Rivera, 27, had never swum before joining the Special Olympics eight years ago. She also plays basketball and volleyball.

“It’s been great over the years,” Garcia said. “It is a very good experience for our children with disabilities and our young adults with disabilities. Their social circle is small, so being part of this organization has been worth it. »

At the games, Rivera won gold in the 100-meter freestyle and added bronze in the 4X50-meter medley.

Pretty good for someone who hadn’t practiced for three months.

Ormond Beach's Trevor Hamilton played at the USA Games in Orlando last month.  He won two silver medals.

Trevor Hamilton, bowling

Before entering the Boardwalk Bowl in Orlando, Trevor Hamilton felt nervous.

He had never been in an aisle as big as this, including its 80 aisles. His parents, Jani and Dale, had taken him there a couple of times before the US Games to acclimate him to the scenery, but there was a different vibe on competition day last month when it was packed with people. .

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Hamilton, 32. “I said, ‘Who am I bowling with?’ Then when I got to the competition, I saw everyone I was going to play against and I thought, ‘I’ve got those guys.

Hamilton won two silver medals, one in singles and one in team.

“Tuesday was what I was most proud of,” he said. “I was swinging it around, picking up my spares. I said, ‘I have this. I just need to warm up. ”

Hamilton has been bowling for about four years and spent six months training ahead of the US Games. He also participates in golf and basketball, his favorite. His next goal: to go to the World Games in Berlin, Germany, next year.

His parents said how much impact Special Olympics had on Hamilton. They encouraged more people to help as volunteers and coaches and would like to see a large Special Olympics site in Volusia County one day.

“We are forever grateful to everyone who helps us,” said Dale Hamilton.

Tiffany Dorber, stand-up paddleboarding

In her 1600 meter final, Tiffany Dorber took over from her friend from Jacksonville.

The two were battling for second place, with Dorber in third and her friend in second. As the transition progressed, Dorber slowed down next to her competitor to cheer her on. She moved into second place and won the silver medal by several seconds.

“At that time, I don’t think she really cared whether she beat her or not,” said Jeff Dorber, Tiffany’s father. “She was just cheering on her friend…That’s typical Tiffany.”

Dorber, a 30-year-old graduate of New Smyrna Beach High School, started with the Special Olympics nine years ago. Since then, she has participated in just about everything — paddle boarding, golf, tennis, cycling. She is good to everyone too.

“Tiffany is no surprise,” said Beebe, her trainer. “She’s a joy to be around, and she rises to the occasion and the competition… Typically, you expect great things from a great athlete with a great attitude.”

Hence this silver medal.

“My wife and I got to see his last event on Friday,” Jeff Dorber said a week after the games ended. “I still don’t think I’ve found my voice.”

Richard Tambini, swimming

Richard Tambini’s hotel room was not so far from his mother’s.

“(But) I didn’t really get to see him much,” Margaret Tambini said due to their busy schedule.

While Margaret was an assistant stand-up paddleboard coach, Richard was a swimmer for Team Florida. He placed fourth in the 50-metre relay and the 50-metre backstroke.

“He had a blast,” Margaret Tambini said. “He loved her.”

Richard joined the Special Olympics at Marion County Elementary School before the family moved to Volusia in 2015. He attended DeLand High School and remained involved in many sports – surfing, paddleboarding, swimming, volleyball- ball and basketball.

Although the 21-year-old loves it all, perhaps the best part of his 10 days in Orlando was the socializing. He didn’t mind that he didn’t see his mother much.

“All of his team members except Taineira, he didn’t know,” Margaret said. “He made new friends, and I know he enjoyed it…

“He was always social. He knows no strangers. He really learns sportsmanship as he matures.

Naomi C. Amerson