Syd Lea, of Taneytown, is a multi-sport athlete, winning championships and breaking records in each of those sports. He has been able to do all of this in the Special Olympics, and just recently was able to add more to his long list of accolades.
Lea completed the 1,000-meter rowing event in 3 minutes, 10.7 seconds, beating the second-place competitor by more than 20 seconds and breaking his own world record by nine seconds.
"Shocked" was how Lea, a Francis Scott Key and Carroll Springs graduate, described his emotion as he not only won the race, but shattered the world record, not to mention the goal he had set for himself.
On Feb. 19, in Boston, the 26-year-old Lea competed in the World Indoor Rowing Championships in the adaptive athlete intellectual disability division just two weeks after first breaking the 1,000-meter mark.
"It was hard," said Lea on the rigorous training he has gone through in order to continue to improve in his events.
Lea's mother, Tracey, supportive of all of her son's endeavors, was with Syd when in Boston.
"He knew what time he was shooting for, and that's what he's been training for," said Tracey Lea.
Lea completed the event in 3:18.1 seconds on Feb. 4 at the Mid-Atlantic Erg Sprints in Alexandria, Va., barely breaking the previous record of 3:19:8.
"It wasn't just a world record for him," Tracey Lea said. "He also achieved his goal, which was that time that he wanted. He was very, very excited."
Winning is nothing new for Syd Lea, as he has achieved much success not only in rowing, but in cycling and equestrian events as well. Although Lea suffered brain damage as a newborn because of lack of oxygen, it has never stopped him from succeeding in athletics.
Lea has won numerous gold medals at Special Olympics events and is also the INAS-FID Road Race and Time Trial world champion. He also won three gold medals at the 2011 Special Olympic World Games in Athens, Greece.
"He's very proud of that opportunity," Lea's mother said. "He feels honored and privileged."
His accomplishments in sports have not only helped him break records and win awards, they have translated into helping him in the work world.
"What he's learning through sport is totally transferrable to his real-life skills," Tracy Lea said. "He's understanding how to work a computer because he works a computer program when he's training for his rowing."
Syd Lea is continuing to work to improve in all of his sports. Along those lines, he will be participating in a U.S. Rowing Development Camp in Austin, Texas from March 22-25.
"I'm so proud of what he's done," Tracey Lea said. "He set out his task ... he methodically worked on his training, and followed a training program, and he did it."