Gayle Anderson witnessed Gus Martinez of the Los Angeles Police Department set a new world record for the “Longest Ride on a Fair Ground/Theme Park Attraction,” which currently stands at 24 hours and 30 minutes at Pacific Park in Santa Monica.
Gus Martinez has been with the Los Angeles Police Department since 1994, currently holding the rank of Detective and working a special crime task force. But the other side of this police officer’s life is what Mr. Martinez labels “life changing”… his son, Jason, also a Special Olympics athlete with Down syndrome. Mr. Martinez and his wife, Menah have three children: Beverly, 24, Jason, 23 and Ariel, 8. The entire family is very supportive of Jason and his Special Olympics “career.” Mrs. Martinez often helps with transportation to and from practices and events while little Ariel, who doesn’t fully have her arms around Jason's condition, visits practices keeping athletes moving, running, swimming, etc.
Since age 4, Jason exceeded everyone's expectations on his abilities when it came to running, soccer and basketball. That encouraged them to join a group of other South Bay Area families who also had children with disabilities to play sports together. Eight years later, a fellow officer shared information about Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) and it didn’t take long to bring Jason into the program. In 2000, not only was he a rookie Special Olympics athlete, but Gus began coaching and doing more hands on volunteering in countless sports from swimming to basketball and track and field to soccer.
As Jason entered his teens, he started growing in Special Olympics, but could not swim. Instead, his teammates saw his talent in other sports and asked him to help with their soccer and basketball special teams. But Jason was spotted just playing in a pool by Special Olympics staff, who inquired about him learning to competitively swim. Four months later, it was difficult to NOT find Jason winning most of his swimming competitions. Although he has continued training in soccer, basketball, and track and field, swimming was his newfound favorite. Since then, he has competed in many summer games collecting some silver, and many gold medals.
Mr. Martinez goes on to add, “Special Olympics athletes are real athletes...no endorsements..no scholarships…just pure joy to train and compete. Being in this SOSC world of athletes, parents, volunteers…it’s a bit of change from working with the crime-related activity I typically focus on day in and day out.”
ABOUT SPECIAL OLYMPICS SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Special Olympics Southern California is a nonprofit organization that empowers individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition. It is one of 52 Chapters within the United States and part of Special Olympics, Inc., which serves 3 million athletes in 180 countries worldwide. www.sosc.org
ABOUT PACIFIC PARK: Great times never end at L.A.'s own family amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier. Step onto one exciting ride after another. Catch your breath, play a game, show off your skill and collect your prize. Grab a treat then look around...it's the beach, baby, with sun, surf and more fun than you thought possible. And it's all right here! www.pacpark.com
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Saturday, June 9th and Sunday, June 10thSpecial Olympics Summer GamesCal State Long BeachLong Beach, 90840(562) 354-2600 www.sosc.orgCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun