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September 20, 2012 | North America: Virginia

What A Moment

By Will Schermerhorn

Rose waits for her relay partner to tag.

I was poolside in Puerto Rico, taking photos while watching swimmers striving, racing, succeeding, getting excited and showing disappointment. It was a mix of emotions for the swimmers, but not so much for me--it was more about the details of framing and angle and moment. But when I saw Special Olympics Virginia athlete Rose Pleskow standing on the starting block, waiting for her relay partner to tag the wall, my eyes started to sting and I felt a surge of emotion. Her relay partner was her mother, Susan. Only in Special Olympics could a mother-daughter team be competing at an international aquatics event, I thought. They were in the thick of it, swimming with purpose and grit, pulling every bit of strength from arms and legs and lungs, and they were doing it as teammates. There is something fundamentally awe-inspiring about that. It's called Unified Sports, an initiative at Special Olympics to bring together people with and without intellectual disabilities. Few in the world have the empathy that a mother has for her child, so I suppose Rose and Susan are a natural team. Still...what a moment.

About Will Schermerhorn: I am a photographer and product director at Special Olympics. My son, Mason, is a Special Olympics athlete.

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