Special Olympics Athletes Strike Up The First Bowling Practice Of The Season

Clad from head to toe in her favorite team's bright red gear, Tatia Leyden was dressed as a St. Louis Cardinals superfan when she competed in a bowling event Saturday and passed out candy to trick-or treaters Sunday. 

This was Leyden's sixth year in a row dressed as the Cardinals' biggest fan and her 20th season participating in the Columbia Parks and Recreation Adapted Sports/Special Olympics program

The 32-year-old is a veteran athlete on multiple Special Olympics teams in Columbia and has participated in bowling, volleyball, track and field, basketball and softball.

Tatia Leyden shows off her some of her 160 Special Olympic medals

Tatia Leyden shows off her some of her 160 Special Olympic medals that she has won over the past 20 years Sunday at her house in Columbia. “I was most proud of when my team won state softball in Jeff City,” Leyden said.

Leyden first got involved in the Special Olympics in 2001 after one of her teachers at Smithton Middle School told her about the city's athletic programs for people with disabilities. 

"We had just moved here so we didn't know anything about it," said Joan Leyden, Tatia's mother. "She tried out for Special Olympics, it was track season at that point, and she loves it."

Tatia, who has learning disabilities, began Individualized Education Programs and special education programs at around the age of 5, Joan said.

Columbia Parks and Recreation participates in nine Special Olympic sports: aquatics, basketball, bocce, bowling, golf, softball, tennis, track and field and volleyball, according to the city's website

Individually, Tatia has won over 160 medals in her time competing. She also placed first in the state with her softball team this year.

"Hanging out with friends and meeting new friends" is the best part about being on the different teams, Tatia said.

Emma Barnes, a Columbia Parks and Recreation assistant coordinator, has grown close to Tatia over the past three years.  

"I always enjoy seeing her around because she's one of the athletes that participates in a lot," Barnes said. "She's always stepped up to help us as staff which is really, really nice because sometimes things get chaotic."

Tatia is also known for consistently supporting her teammates at games and in practice, Barnes added.

"In softball, specifically, she's in the dugout and she's cheering on every single one of her teammates always," she said.

"It's really cool to see her encourage new players to a sport," Joan said. "There's kids who were new to basketball last year, or new to softball, and she would walk over to them and she would tell them they were really doing a good job even though they were discouraged."

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When she's not bowling strikes or shooting hoops, Tatia works with kids at Bright Start Academy.

The preschool and daycare provides childcare services to children ages six weeks through 12 years, according to its website.

Tatia starts her day working with toddlers and then goes to different classrooms over the course of the day helping teachers.

"When they transition to different classrooms I'll be in the same room with them, and when they get nervous or something they can come to me," she said.

Tatia has worked at Bright Start Academy for six years.

"She knows them so well and they just love her," Joan said of the kids there and their relationship with Tatia. "It's really neat to see her grow as a leader and as a friend."

Tatia Leyden grabs her Adam Wainwright bobblehead

Tatia Leyden grabs her Adam Wainwright bobblehead Sunday at her house in Columbia. “This is my ultimate favorite,” Leyden said. “Because he (Wainright) is coming back.”

Bowlers prepare to start a game at the annual Columbia adapted sports bowling Halloween event

Bowlers prepare to start a game at the annual Columbia adapted sports bowling Halloween event Saturday at AMF Town & Country Lanes in Columbia. Tatia Leyden has been a member of the Columbia Parks and Recreation Adapted Sports and Special Olympics program for 20 years.

Tatia Leyden watches her bowl roll down the lane in the Halloween bowling match

Tatia Leyden watches her bowl roll down the lane in the Halloween bowling match Saturday at AMF Town & Country Lanes in Columbia. Leyden has dressed up as a St. Louis Cardinals baseball player for the past six years because of her love for the team. “Tatia is awesome and definitely a super fan,” Joan Leyden said.

Jannel Ronneburg, left, waits for a ball as Tatia Leyden throws her bowling ball

Jannel Ronneburg, left, waits for a ball as Tatia Leyden throws her bowling ball down lane Saturday at AMF Town & Country Lanes in Columbia. The Halloween event was held for members of the Columbia Parks and Recreation Adapted Sports and Special Olympics program.

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Source : https://www.komu.com/news/midmissourinews/special-olympics-athlete-tatia-leyden-excels-as-both-athlete-and-mentor/article_f285ba37-e371-557d-a6ee-b9b233d8d643.html

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