Abu Dhabi will welcome 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from more than 170 nations to compete in 24 Olympic-type winter sports for the 2019 World Summer Games. Michigan will have three athletes among Special Olympics USA's 216 athlete delegation.
Special Olympics USA members from Michigan
Michigan is sending three athletes to the 2019 World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi: Tyler Baxter (Chelsea, Bowling), Nicholas Minnema (Grand Rapids, Athletics), and Nicole Roberts (Attica, Swimming).
In addition to the three athletes, Special Olympics Michigan is sending one coach to Abu Dhabi: Maciej Litkowiec (Clinton Township, Assistant Swimming Coach).
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Tyler Baxter (Chelsea), Bowling
Tyler Baxter hails from Chelsea, Michigan - located about 15 miles west of Ann Arbor. Tyler first got involved with Special Olympics in 2011 at age 16 and has competed in six sports with bowling being his favorite. Tyler bowls weekly, having picked up the game as a young child after family members encouraged him to try the sport. Today, he carries a 200 average and is one of the top bowlers in the state of Michigan. Tyler says Special Olympics has helped him get over "stage fright" and that he's now ready to perform on the World's biggest stage as a member of Special Olympics USA! Upon learning that he was selected to compete during Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, Tyler got a Special Olympics tattoo on his arm. He also learned how to write his name in Arabic and plans to add that to his arm tattoo in honor of the Games in Abu Dhabi.
Nicholas Minnema (Grand Rapids), Athletics
Grand Rapids, MI
Nicholas Minnema hails from Grand Rapids, Michigan. The 10-year Special Olympics veteran has competed locally in Michigan since he was 16 years old and always had aspirations to compete internationally. Thanks to a strong showing in the shot put at the Special Olympics Michigan State Summer Games, Nicholas has earned a spot on Special Olympics USA for Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. Nicholas prides himself on making sure others feel included and received an award for kindness during his senior year of high school. When he's not doing track and field events, Nicholas loves to sing and play basketball. Nicholas says his favorite celebrities are singer/actress Selena Gomez because she sings and dances well and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors because "he makes game-winning buzzer-beater shots." Nicholas hopes to come up just as clutch as Steph Curry in Abu Dhabi.
Nicole Roberts (Attica), Swimming
Nicole Roberts grew up 60 miles North of Detroit in Attica, Michigan and has been competing in Special Olympics for 23 years. An avid swimmer, Roberts specializes in the backstroke where she excels in the 50m and 100m distances. To help prepare for Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, Roberts worked with a personal coach twice a week in addition to her local Special Olympics coach. She says being named to Special Olympics USA's swimming team is the biggest accomplishment of her life and that she's excited for the opportunity to represent the country in Abu Dhabi!
Maciej Litkowiec (Clinton Township), Swimming Coach
Clinton Township, MI
Maciej Litkowiec's teaching career began in physical education, but a job change that included a switch to adaptive physical education soon set him on an unexpected path that led to Special Olympics. "I love the athletes. I deal with students with intellectual disabilities on a daily basis and I just love it. I could go on and on," said Litkowiec. Maciej first got connected with Special Olympics in 2007, helping to coach at the local and state levels. Then in 2010, Michigan named him its head aquatics coach for Special Olympics USA Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. A year later, Maciej joined Special Olympics USA's aquatics coaching staff for the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece. He was also part of the coaching staff as an assistant alpine skiing coach for Special Olympics USA at Special Olympics World Winter Games Austria 2017. And now, a third World Games opportunity awaits him as an assistant swimming coach for Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. "It's an honor. I can't wait to see all of our athletes compete. They just have a phenomenal attitude and you can learn from them being positive, being persistent, so that's what keeps me going."