Barrington is cheering for Team Jake today after 19-year-old Jake McManus took the Bronze medal on his first day competing in the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles. Jake’s first event was English Equitation yesterday and he’s competing in Dressage today as we all stand-by, eagerly awaiting updates here in Barrington.
Jake, who is autistic, is the youngest of only ten equestrians competing on Team USA. He’s one of only 120 equestrians from around the world competing in this Special Olympics World Games. In all, there are more than 7,000 athletes from 177 nations competing in 25 Olympic-type sports from July 25th through August 2nd in Los Angeles. And Barrington’s own Jake McManus already has a medal to his name!!!
I caught up with Jake’s mom Stacie McManus before she left Barrington to meet Team Jake in LA. Stacie told me they’re feeling an exhilarating mix of pride and gratitude for Jake’s role in these World Games.
“It’s all been so exciting and we’re very, very proud of Jake. It’s a huge accomplishment and an acknowledgement of his skill and drive and determination and talents.
But, for us, we’re also celebrating a bigger picture than just the Games and the medals. The fact that people have gone out of their way to acknowledge and support Jake over the years has been huge. Often times families of those with autism and special needs find themselves feeling very isolated and like they’re living outside of the community structure. For us, this has been a way to really feel bolstered by our community and all of Jake’s supporters.”
Desperate for an update, I messaged Stacie last night asking how Jake’s feeling after yesterday’s Bronze medal. She wrote back at 5 a.m. with with this report…
“The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity and emotions. We have finally gotten to see Jake and spend some time sharing this amazing experience. The opening ceremonies were so impressive and the roar when Team USA walked in gave us all chills. We were able to spot Jake in the crowd and share long distance waves.”
“Competition began in earnest this week. Jake was paired with a retired show horse named Mr P. He is a very different horse than Jake is used to so it’s a challenge.”
“Jake’s first event was English Equitation and I watched him compete with equal parts joy and panic. He rode so beautifully and made his family and coaches extraordinarily proud. We suffered through the wait as the medals we’re awarded for the afternoon’s events and were immensely happy for Jake to take home the Bronze with a tie at Gold.”
“Jake competed against the best division of World Athletes and truly shined. My phone has been constantly buzzing with texts and requests for information and updates from friends and supporters of the extended Team Jake. We are thrilled his longtime coach and mentor Meggan McQuueney from BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center is here as well calming nerves and giving tips.”
“Jake’s Team USA coaches and athletes are a fantastic group and the families we have met are great. Other than the constant state of nerves for me the whole experience has truly been once in a lifetime. Jake is trading pins with athletes and meeting people from all over the world. And, of course, Jake is his unique way of looking at the world.”
“There are tons of supporters for all the athletes here and it’s overwhelming! Dressage today against the same tough group of seven so more breath holding for us in the stands, but nothing but hard work and serious determination for Jake!! Talk soon!!! More to come!!!”
We’re in awe of your accomplishments, Jake! Thank you for making Barrington proud. And thanks to those who have supported you along the way for leading by example. The photos we’ve seen courtesy of Stacie’s brother, Lawrence Schulman, are helping us feel like we’re right there with the team and these are just a few more of my favorites.
Thinking of you today, McManus family, and can’t wait for your next update. We’re so happy you’re letting us all be a part of Team Jake :).