Headed to China

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 24, 2007

Athlete to compete in Special Olympics Team USA

By Coy O’Neal

The Selma Times-Journal

Email newsletter signup

Tonya Mashelle Pitts of Uniontown is headed to China.

Pitts was one of three athletes from the state of Alabama selected to be a part of Special Olympics Team USA, a delegation that departs today and will convene in California before continuing on to Shanghai, China to compete in the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games Oct. 2-11. The Summer Games will be the largest sporting event to be held in the world this year.

A gold medalist in previous Special Olympics competitions, Pitts will be playing in the basketball division and competing in the track and field and shot put events, which are in the athletic division. The athletic division of competition, which has been in place since the first Summer Games in 1968, includes sprint, marathon, middle-distance race, high jump, long jump, shot put, relay, pentathlon, and walking events.

Floyd Sanders, Special Olympics Coordinator for the Cahaba Center on Medical Center Parkway in Selma and Pitts’ coach, said Pitts has been preparing long and hard for the competition.

In July, Pitts attended a five-day training camp held at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

It was Pitts’ first time out of the state of Alabama.

The Team USA delegation includes a total of 401 athletes and 102 coaches. While the selections are random, they come from a pool that consists of division winners and those who have previously trained and competed extensively for a particular sport. While abroad, Pitts will be under the care of the National Special Olympics Management Team which handles her housing, meals, uniforms, and other needs.

Pitts has been competing in Special Olympics competitions through the Cahaba Center for nearly a decade, but she has been involved since she was a small child.

While practicing a shot put throw Monday, Pitts threw her arms in the air in a victory motion. &8220;I’m the best,&8221; she said. &8220;The Lord gave me this arm.&8221;

Pitts’ competition can be tracked online at www.specialolympicsteamusa.org. Photos of her journey and game results will be updated regularly on the site.