Heartland Special Olympians road to the U.S.A. Games

Dustin Johnson competes and places at the Special Olympics Missouri State Games earlier this year.(KTVO:Riley Fannon)

Next year, thousands of athletes, coaches and fans will descend on Seattle, Washington, for the 2018 Special Olympics U.S.A. Games.

From July 1 through 6, athletes from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia will compete in 14 Olympic style team and solo sports.

In addition to the 14 sports, the 2018 USA Games will also be offering the Motor Activity Training Program, which is designed for athletes who are unable to participate in official Special Olympics sport competitions because of their skill and/or functional abilities.

The MATP is designed to prepare athletes, including those with severe or profound intellectual disability and significant physical disabilities, for sport-specific activities appropriate for their ability levels.

Joining the thousands of athletes participating this year is the Heartland's own Dustin Johnson.

“I’m really excited and it’s going to be fun," Dustin said.

Dustin will be competing in several track and field competitions, including the 100-meter race, running long jump and 4 by 100 relay.

To earn his spot on Team Missouri, Dustin had to compete at the State games back in June where he showed off not just his athletic skill but his heart as well.

A little over a week after the state games finished, Dustin was invited to sports camp, a selection camp for potential U.S.A. games athletes.

A total of 108 athletes will represent Missouri and it was his character that helped him make the small 8-man track and field team.

Joining Dustin will be his coach and local Heartland resident Michelle Howell.

“So Dustin was very lucky and was selected to go based on not only athletic ability but on his character, his behavior, his ability to be independent and on his own, and just to do great things,” Howell said.

And while he has been selected to compete next year, Dustin will have to raise $3,000 before he can go.

Those funds that we will raise will go towards our airfare, toward Dustin’s uniform, new shoes, all of our bags and luggage, our food, our transportation and our lodging while we’re in Seattle for the whole week.

The goal of the Special Olympics organization is to promote inclusion while highlighting the amazing athletes who participate.

And the national games will be one way these Olympians can showcase how special they truly are.

If you ask Dustin what he’s most excited for, it may not surprise those that know him, but the possibility of bringing home something gold is up there with trying his very best.

Get a gold medal and run really fast.

If you would like to learn more about the Special Olympics or the U.S.A. Games, click here.

If you would like to help Dustin raise the $3,000 and get to Seattle, click here for his donation page.

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