Photographer Lynn Johnson attended the New Jersey and Ohio statewide Summer Games, both of which were held in June 2008. By portraying the tenacity of athletes like John Holmes, who represented Hamilton County (Ohio) as a powerlifter, and the dedication of coaches like Rick Stolze, Johnson was able to capture the humanity, commitment and spirit of competition present at Special Olympics events.
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Holmes, shown here during one of his deadlifts, is 41 and has been a powerlifter since 1989. "He just loves to throttle back," says coach Rick Stolze. "He's strong as an ox."
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Claire Digianantonio used to be terrified of the water but this fall made the JV swim team at Jackson High in Massillon, Ohio. She prefers freestyle events over backstroke because, she says, "I do freestyle a heck of a lot faster."
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Track and field athletes celebrated after competing at Ohio State, which hosted the opening ceremonies and competitions for all but two of the 12 sports offered at the Ohio Games (bowling and roller-skating were off-campus).
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Sara Rosati, 9, sprinted to a gold medal in the 25-meter dash at the College of New Jersey, which has hosted the Summer Games for the last 19 years.
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Bradley, who also won a gold medal in the softball throw, celebrated with coach Jeff Coleman, on whose shirt is printed the Special Olympics athlete oath.
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Donna Roberto, who has volunteered with Special Olympics gymnastics since 1980, coached Stacy Nonas on the uneven bars in New Jersey.
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She only began swimming competitively in 2007, but already Alyssa Bohner, 13, is a gold medalist (she won gold and bronze at the Games in New Jersey).
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After competing in the softball throw in New Jersey, 10-year-old Zachary Edenzon received congratulatory kisses from his brother, Michael, his mom, Kathy, and his sister, A.J.
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The mood was light outside Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton as competitors waited for the parade of athletes to begin at the opening ceremonies. More than 2,000 athletes participated in the New Jeresy Games.
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Andy Reif, center, who has been a bocce player since 1996, celebrated a superb toss during the bocce competition in New Jersey. "You've got to fight through the heat and everything, but it's worth it," says Reif, 25. "I'm up here every year."
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David Agnew, 14, met with volunteers from the Rutgers football team before the opening ceremonies in Trenton. He went on to win a gold medal in the 50-meter assisted walk, which he completed with his father. "He's kind of like a little celebrity," says David Agnew Sr. of his son, who is the youngest competitor on his team. "All the other parents and athletes know his name and they all root for him."
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Because of Kurt Straub's experience with bocce (he won a silver medal at the 1999 World Games in North Carolina) and his ability to communicate with and relate to other athletes, he was chosen by the Cumberland County (New Jersey) head coaches to be an assistant coach.
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