It was a full-circle moment for Beth Meyer. The swimmer has competed for Special Olympics Ohio since 1990 but had never participated in the USA Games, the organization’s biggest domestic competition. But 2022 happened to be her year.
In July 2021, Meyer learned that she would be going to the 2022 USA Games in Orlando, Florida, during her 60th birthday celebration. “It’s something I never would have expected,” Meyer says. “It was super-duper and heartwarming. When we got out of the airplane [in Orlando], everyone greeted us.”
Meyer also showed enthusiasm for the athletes’ own Special Olympics village, which was located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Walt Disney World Resort. Her favorite part was socializing with other delegations and participating in the famous Special Olympics pin exchange, a tradition where athletes trade pins from their respective state programs.
“I got a bunch of pins from all over the place, like Alaska and Hawaii,” she says. “I wish we got more because I would have liked to get one from every state.”
In the pool, Meyer competed in the 50m freestyle, 50m breaststroke, and 100m freestyle. She went home with the silver medal in the 50m freestyle, fifth place in the 50m breaststroke, and seventh place in the 100m freestyle. But having been swimming for decades, this competition had a bit of a different feeling to it. The swimming venue, the Rosen Aquatic Center, has welcomed some of the greatest swimmers in the world, including several Olympians. “It was pretty cool,” she says. “To think I leaped off the same block Michael Phelps might have dived off. I was in tears when I was standing on that podium.”
The 61-year-old adds that she wears her medal around her hometown often to show people her accomplishments and raise awareness for Special Olympics.
Meyer plans to continue swimming, and while she hopes to get another opportunity like this, she wants other athletes to experience the same once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete on one of Special Olympics’ biggest stages. Her advice for those athletes? “Just do lots of laps in the pool,” she says. “A whole year’s worth of it.”