The initial story ran in the June 29 issue of The Visitor and can also be found online here .
Sara Kigin was one of four women and four men who represented Team Minnesota in the swimming competition at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle July 1-6.
Kigin finished in first place in the 100-meter freestyle, fourth in the 200-meter freestyle, fifth in the 400-meter freestyle and second in the 4×25 relay.
“She had quite the cheering squad with Team Kigin,” said Sara’s mom, Marie Kigin. “My niece made T-shirts for all of us to wear as a complete surprise. Sara had 13 family members and friends there, plus the rest of the team families cheering her on all week.”
The week was challenging — the athletes needed to be up at 4:30 a.m. each day to board a bus for a nearly hourlong ride to the sports facilities where the events took place.
“And they stayed there until suppertime,” Marie said. “They were long, exhausting days, but they all did wonderful.”
A highlight for Marie was the 100-meter freestyle, in which Sara earned a gold medal.
“On the final lap, she hit the wall, which stopped the clock, but she just kept going,” Marie said. “We called it her ‘victory lap.’”
Another bright spot of the trip was when both Sara and Marie were interviewed by ESPN host Victoria Arlen, who also has been a contestant on the television show “Dancing with the Stars.” Kigin said Arlen connected with Sara when she learned Sara had survived childhood cancer. Arlen also survived a childhood illness that left her paralyzed for several years. She later competed in the London Paralympics in 2012 and, like Sara, won a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle.
Rooting from home
The Kigins arrived back in St. Cloud late July 7 and attended Mass at their parish, St. Mary’s Cathedral, the next morning. Sara, wearing her medals, brought up the gifts before communion.
“People were really excited for her. Before and after Mass, they stopped her and asked her about her medals,” Marie said. “Everyone has been so supportive.”
In addition to visiting their church family, they also were treated to a family celebration later that day.
“The week before we left for Seattle, we visited Sara’s great aunt Millie who is 96. Sara told her she was going to swim for her. And she did,” Marie said.
Up next for Sara is playing softball with Special Olympics locally and taking a family trip to Canada in August.
“After a whole year of gearing up for Seattle, it’s going to be so nice to be a little more low-key for a while,” Marie said. “I don’t think we can top this.”