A teenage gymnast with Down syndrome was surprised to learn that she has been selected to compete in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in a heartwarming video.
Izzy Brinkerhoff, 14, of Clifton Park, New York, thought she was going car shopping with her sister when she stepped into Mohawk Chevrolet on May 25, but was greeted with confetti and balloons in honor of her, the Times Union reported.
The young athlete’s family, her coach Marlene Michels and Stacey Hengsterman, president and CEO of Special Olympics New York, were all there to celebrate her making the New York team.
‘My dream is coming true!’ Brinkerhoff screamed. “I feel really good.”
Celebration: Gymnast Izzy Brinkerhoff, 14, of Clifton Park, New York, was surprised to hear that she will compete in the Special Olympics USA Games in 2022
Special moment: The teenager, who has Down syndrome, gave her coach Marlene Michels (pictured) a big hug during the celebration thrown in her honor at Mohawk Chevrolet
According to the Times Union, the gymnast looked stunned, but she celebrated the exciting news by doing some cartwheels in the dealership.
Brinkerhoff was selected from hundreds of local Special Olympics athletes to compete in the Special Olympics USA Games, to be held at Disney World in Florida in June.
She will fight on the balance beam, bar, jump and floor exercises with a team of boys and girls during the 10-day competition.
A video of the moment shared on Twitter by Times Union reporter Wendy Liberator shows Hengsterman telling Brinkerhoff that she qualified for the Special Olympics USA Games.
Amazing: A video of the moment shows Stacey Hengsterman, president and CEO of Special Olympics New York, telling Brinkerhoff that she made the New York team
Happy: Brinkerhoff said participating in the Special Olympics USA Games is a ‘dream come true’
Heartwarming: Hengsterman, who asked teen parents if they could surprise her, said it was ‘worth every second of planning’
“We first looked with her parents to see if we could surprise her,” Hengsterman told the Times Union. “It’s worth every second of planning. It’s just great. She is amazing. I’m super proud of her.’
The Special Olympics USA Games are held every four years and athletes live together in a village, much like the Olympics. If parents are present, they are not allowed to coddle the participants.
“We want to be an experience, to be part of a delegation,” Hengsterman said. “It’s an incredible opportunity for them.”
Mohawk Chevrolet, where the surprise took place, is a corporate supporter of the New York Special Olympics. It costs the New York organization about $200,000 to pay the athletes and coaches to attend the national competition.
Talented: Brinkerhoff has competed as a gymnast for six years and is a 10-time gold medalist in the Special Olympics
Competition: The gymnast will compete with a team of boys and girls on the balance beam, bars, jump and floor exercises during the 10-day competition
Exciting: The Special Olympics USA Games are held every four years and athletes live together in a village, just like the Olympics
Brinkerhoff’s coach was elated that she made it to the team, and another video shows them hugging each other as everyone around them claps.
“It’s unbelievable,” Michels said. ‘I’m so proud of her. She is doing so well and training so hard. It’s an incredible honour.’
Brinkerhoff has competed for six years and is a 10-time Special Olympics gold medalist. WAMC reported in October.
The gymnast told the public radio station that she loves watching her family cheer her on at the stadium.
“I’m bringing my whole family. My parents are coming to watch,” she said, adding, “They’re yelling my name.”