Waretown Swimmer Gabriel Shehady Shines at Special Olympics USA Summer Games

Jul 18, 2018
Courtesy of: Kimberly Shehady Waretown swimmer Gabriel Shehady shows off the four gold medals he brought home from Seattle following the Special Olympics USA Summer Games.

Sporting Team New Jersey’s cool and dapper Tommy Hilfiger outfit, Gabriel Shehady entered the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium for the Special Olympics USA Summer Games with some 4,000 other athletes on July 1, expecting only that he would do his best once it was his turn to cruise through the pool at the King County Aquatic Center.

By the time he and his teammates completed the USA Games – contested every four years – and returned for the closing ceremony on July 6, Gabriel’s best turned out to be four gold medals in four events. That’s an accomplishment for a 14-year-old competing for the first time on the national stage.

“Not only did he win gold in four events, he also experienced the trip of a lifetime,” said Gabe’s mom, Kim. “Special Olympics New Jersey and all the sponsors provided the athletes with a truly magical experience.”

The youngest member of Team New Jersey, Gabriel swam the butterfly leg of the 4x25-meter and 4x50-meter medley relays, helping each quartet to first-place finishes – the 4x25 relay in 1:40.51 and the 4x50 relay in 3:00.22. Individually, he swam to a first-place time of 44 seconds flat in the 50-meter butterfly, as well as a time of 36.47 seconds to snatch first in the 50-meter freestyle.

Coached by Carol McMullen and Stephanie Johnson, Team New Jersey’s swimming crew consisted of six competitors. Besides Shehady, the rest of the crew included Rozana Deryas, Margo Lee, Michael Lehrer, Tracy Musarra and Jason Pelletier. Gabriel was the only one on the team to bring home four gold medals, leading to him being dubbed “Golden Gabe.”

Hailing from Waretown, Shehady regularly practices with the New Wave swim team, coached by Pat and Tom Rears and Katie Sova at St. Francis Community Center in Brant Beach. He’s been swimming with New Wave since 2014. He also works on his swimming privately with Mark and Linda Behr.

“Gabe has improved dramatically and won many medals during the last four years,” his mother said. “He has improved his times in both the freestyle, by four seconds, and butterfly, by 10 seconds. All of his hard work was rewarded when he was picked to represent Team New Jersey in Seattle.”

Now, he and his parents will play a bit of a waiting game to find out whether Gabe may have the opportunity to compete on the biggest Special Olympics stage, the World Summer Games, scheduled for March 14-21, 2019, in the United Arab Emirates capital, Abu Dhabi. It will be the first time the World Summer Games makes its way to the Middle East.

The World Games will feature approximately 7,000 athletes from more than 170 countries, but national delegations are not selected based on performance at their respective national games. Instead, the World Games athletes are selected by a different set of criteria, including the completion of requisite training camps and sessions preceding the competition.

— David Biggy


Waretown swimmer Gabriel Shehady cruises through the pool at the King County Aquatic Center in Seattle during the Special Olympics USA Summer Games. (Courtesy of: Kimberly Shehady)
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