Menomonee Falls - Menomonee Falls resident Becca Stelpflug has never let cerebral palsy stop her from doing what she loves to do.
In fact, her drive and determination is not only inspiring, it is something to cheer about. Becca recently took home the gold medal during the Special Olympics National Invitations Golf Tournament Sept. 6 through 9 in Litchfield Park, Ariz.
In a 9-hole competition on a challenging course riddled with sand traps, the 21-year-old athlete won the gold even though it was the hardest course she has ever faced.
"She's gone a number of times and this course was by far, in all the events we've been to, the toughest course I've ever seen Special Olympics play because there were a ton of sand traps," Becca's mom Rita Stelpflug said. "We were very impressed."
Working to the gold
Becca started golfing 10 years ago. She decided to try it once and never looked back. With the help of her caddie Nancy Kostanski, who is with her every step of the way, Becca is now a strong golfer.
This was her first gold in golf. Golf can be an inherently frustrating sport, but the young athlete doesn't let a bad day of play stop her.
"You just try to keep a positive attitude and if you have an off day you have an off day and then you'll have an on day, so I try to look at it that way," she said.
Through Special Olympics, Becca swims, plays basketball and flag football, snowshoes and bowls. She also helps to coach bowling and track. To attend a competition, Becca has to be nominated and selected by the nonprofit organization.
This isn't the first time Becca's experience with Wisconsin Special Olympics has taken her to gold medal status and put her skills and endurance to the test. Last year, Becca competed in the World Games in Greece where she won gold in the 100-meter back stroke and bronze in the 4-by-50-meter medley relay.
Becca trained for two hours every day in preparation for that competition.
Keeping physically fit, mentally strong
Challenging herself every step of the way physically and mentally is not only personally rewarding, but keeps her muscles strong. Maintaining a high level of physical fitness, she said, is one way for her to work against cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a disease that effects movement and muscle growth.
Becca was diagnosed as a baby because she did not receive enough oxygen to her brain when she was in the womb.
She was 8 years old when she started participating in Special Olympics.
"It was fun to do it and I just stayed with it," she said.
When Becca first started swimming, she said she would paddle her arms and go nowhere.
"I would literally go two inches," Becca said.
Now she can swim a mile and a half and has a medal that is proof of her powerful stroke. She plans to perfect the butterfly stroke next in preparation for competition. Playing 18-hole golf is also on her agenda.
Going beyond athletics
Special Olympics Wisconsin is not just about learning new sports. Becca has made friends and gained confidence through her participation with the organization.
"They offer her opportunities she never would have had. It's amazing. They've built her confidence way up," Rita said. "It's the joy of just being accepted as everyone else, it's really cool."
The next competition for Becca is a bowling tournament featuring athletes from around the area Oct. 14 at AMF Bowlero Lanes, 11737 W. Burleigh St., in Wauwatosa.
People are welcome to watch or volunteer at the event. To volunteer or learn more about Special Olympics Wisconsin, visit specialolympicswisconsin.org.
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