Special Olympics athlete brings home gold, silver

Robert Kendle

When meeting Roseville resident Robert Kendle, one would notice his polite manners, his sweet smile, his kind demeanor. But behind that unassuming personality lies an Alpine skiing champion.

Rob, along with 11,000 athletes from 111 countries (and only two others from Minnesota) traveled to Pyeongchang, South Korea, earlier this year to attend the 10th Special Olympic World Winter Games.

Rob earned his place on the USA Special Olympics team  by earning a gold medal in the state Special Olympics competition in 2012.  He skis with the “Flames,” a Roseville area Special Olympics team that has won numerous medals.

The entire trip to South Korea was a dream come true for the athletes. On their way to the games, the U.S. team visited Seoul, their host village, and enjoyed tours of schools and military bases and were able to attend a cultural fair as well. Once they arrived in Pyeongchang, athletes mingled with other athletes and coaches, exchanging pins and insignia jackets. Rob’s mom Arlys says she will never the opening ceremonies, when the entire stadium chanted “USA! USA!” as the US team entered.

Walking into the stadium felt “pretty good,” Rob says.

Of his time in Pyeongchang, Rob notes, “I liked the different culture. I met new people, tried new foods, made new friends.”

When the Olympics were over, Rob had scored gold and silver medals and a ribbon.

As a child Rob was diagnosed with a mild mental handicap and Pervasive Development Disorder, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Rob, now 31, has been skiing with the Special Olympics since he was 8 or 9 years old. His team practices regularly at Afton Alps.

“I like skiing with people, I like competing,” he says. “And I like going fast.”

The Special Olympics were first created through the work of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who began a summer camp for children with disabilities in her own backyard, according to www.specialolympics.org. Eventually her work evolved into the Special Olympics; the first International Special Olympics summer games were held in July 1968.

The next Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held in Los Angeles in 2015.

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