Andrew Fowler is fast. Really fast. For the past 10 years, Andrew has been competing in the Special Olympics, and has earned his fair share of gold and silver medals. This year, Andrew will be trying to win yet another medal in the Special Olympics USA Games.
A Gig Harbor native, Andrew Fowler was born three months premature and struggled with COPD with emphysema. Yet despite these challenges, Andrew has grown to become an athlete worthy of competition. “I was watching TV,” he explains, “and I decided to try out for it. And I told my parents, I want to do the Olympics. They go, ‘okay.’ So I signed up for the Special Olympics in 2008. And my first gold was track. I got the gold medal the first time.”
Andrew’s three events are the 50-meter walk, the 100-meter walk, and the standing long jump. After winning gold in the state games, he was randomly picked to compete in the USA games. Provided he does well and is randomly picked again, he has the opportunity to compete in the world games in Abu Dhabi in 2019. “He takes it very seriously,” says Ed Hazel, Andrew’s coach. “He practices on the treadmill, he practices at home. When we’re just playing basketball, sometimes I tell him just to do your race walk because I think he race walks faster than he runs on the basketball court.”
To put this in perspective, Ed Hazel compares Andrew’s race walking time with runners. “At state a couple weeks ago, his 50 [meter] time was 16 seconds. That’s race walking. That’s not running. So if you put that at 100, that’s a good time for a 100-meter dash. So that’s basically the way I look at it. He’s doing 100-meter dash in 16 seconds, which is really good for Special Olympics in Washington State. And his 100-meter walk, it’s like 23 seconds. The only time we have trouble is if the judges aren’t watching close enough because he moves so fast, and he has the technique down so good that if you’re not paying attention, it looks like he’s running.”
Andrew’s father, Mark, expresses nothing but pride for his son’s incredible achievements. “It’s exciting. I hope he does his best. He’s kind of like a wild card here. They got him started with all these interviews. He can’t stop smiling.”
To shine a spotlight on Andrew, as well as the Special Olympics USA Games held in Seattle July 1-6, Comcast partnered with the Special Olympics to hold a meet and greet at the 6th Avenue Comcast location on June 16.
“The Special Olympics changes the lives of those involved by providing year-round support to children and adults with intellectual disabilities,” says Diem Ly, Community Impact Director of Comcast Washington. “The 2018 USA Games will be one of the largest and most significant events in the history of Seattle and its success will be due in part to the support of corporate partners who have a shared commitment to furthering the ideals of diversity and inclusion. Comcast NBC Universal has a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. We define diversity broadly—not just as embracing differences in race, gender, culture, color, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, age, but also ability. That is why Comcast has supported the Special Olympics for almost a decade and we are highlighting athletes like Andrew to help drive awareness for the 2018 USA Games in Seattle.”
Mary Do, Vice President of Development and Communications for Special Olympics Washington, is very pleased with their partnership with Comcast. “Comcast has been an amazing partner for Special Olympics for a decade now,” says Do. “And really that partnership has been wonderful with them really going into the communities and showcasing our athletes’ abilities, like Andrew, whose story was he wasn’t going to make it when he was little, and had some real big challenges and struggles. And here he is now years later with Special Olympics and playing flag football, competing in USA Games. He’s an incredible guy. And what Comcast does for us is showcasing what our athletes’ abilities are and what opportunities people can get involved.”
For Andrew, however, getting a chance to compete again is a dream come true. “It’s amazing to be here,” he beams. And to any prospective Special Olympians looking for words of encouragement, Andrew was more than happy to oblige. “I hope they try it out and sign up for the track and field. It will be good for them. And they can get very far if they train every day. Just don’t give up.”