Ada Jones had a smile on her face all the way from the starting line to the finish line during her heat of the 100-yard dash Saturday.
Jones, 29, beamed, arms thrust triumphantly in the air, when a gold medal was placed around her neck moments later.She had done it. She had trained for this event and she had run the race well. She was a winner.
There were 1,400 winners at the conclusion Saturday of the 1990 Utah Special Olympics Summer Games. At these games, the prize is not just for the swiftest. It goes to all who participate.
The Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and competition for children and adults who are mentally retarded. This year, the summer games were held at Brigham Young University, drawing athletes from all over the state for three days of competition and activities.
"It is the best thing these kids have," said Billina Badback, 18, coach of the Olympic team from Blanding, San Juan County. "It gives them a chance to participate in something that makes them feel special. For most of our kids, this is the only place they get to go."
Badback brought 26 team members, including Ada Jones, to this year's competition - the largest team ever to come from San Juan. Jones, a Navajo, is "educationably mentally retarded." During the week she lives with foster parents in Blanding and attends the San Juan Transition Center. There she is learning to baby-sit, to do housecleaning, to sew quilts, make cedar bead necklaces and to make yarn baskets. On weekends, she stays with her parents on the Indian reservation.
"She is a great Navajo wedding-basketmaker," Badback said.
Spectators would agree - Jones also runs a great 100-yard dash.