Janesville men officiate at Special Olympics National Games
JANESVILLE—Bob Pedersen, Bill Semmens and Dick Lambrecht love to share stories about athletes who have taught them life lessons.
They have seen competitors in track and field events fall hard and struggle to finish. They have seen athletes take the hand of other athletes to urge them on. They have seen athletes wait at the finish line to cheer on competitors.
“It would be nice if everyone saw the love these athletes have for each other,” Lambrecht said.
For many years, the Janesville men have officiated at Special Olympics for people with intellectual disabilities.
Recently, they returned from the granddaddy of such events.
The men officiated last month at Special Olympics National Games in Princeton, New Jersey.
Pedersen, Semmens and Lambrecht are certified, U.S. track-and-field, master officials and were among an elite group of 36 track-and-field officials at the competition.
Lambrecht was a field referee, Pedersen a chief umpire and Semmens a multi-event referee in the pentathlon. More than 3,500 athletes from across the country competed in 16 sporting competitions.
“They pattern it after the Olympics,” Pedersen said. “Basically, they have the same track events, with some exceptions.”
Sixty-eight athletes from Wisconsin took part and all placed to receive medals. None were from Janesville.
The event began in 2006 in Ames, Iowa, and is held every four years.
Pedersen, Semmens and Lambrecht officiated at all three national games, where talented athletes shatter false perceptions of people with disabilities.
“I enjoy working with the athletes,” Lambrecht said. “I'm trying to give something back to the sports that I have been involved with.”
He officiated at his first Special Olympics event in 2004.
Lambrecht, Pedersen and Semmens are retired Janesville high school teachers who coached track and other sports.
Pedersen enjoys watching the athletes stretch their abilities with proper coaching. He is athletic director of Janesville Special Olympics.
“The athletes do not want to let their teams or coaches down,” Pedersen said. “Many get upset if they don't do well.”
Pedersen and Semmens have been involved in Special Olympics for more than 30 years.
Semmens is state director of track and field for Special Olympics. He conducts track and field clinics for coaches around Wisconsin.
Semmens calls the supportive atmosphere of Special Olympics life-changing for participants, coaches and spectators.
“There is no 'I' in Special Olympics,” he said. “Everyone works together. If I can get people to come once, I guarantee they will be hooked.”
Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.