May 27, 2018
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Hampden athlete headed to Olympics

By Anne Gabbianelli O’Reilly, Special to The Weekly

“Glide, kick, pull, breathe,” shouts Andrea Lee as she primes a young Hampden woman for swimming in the Olympics to be held in Greece later this month. Cailynn Goss is headed to Athens, the birthplace of the Olympics, where she will represent proudly the United States of America as a member of Special Olympics Team USA.

“We are just so proud of the effort that she puts into being part of the team,” said mom Tina Goss. “She works out almost every day, she eats right and she’s lost 14 pounds!”

Cailynn’s excitement started nearly a year ago on a hot August day. When the mail came, she quickly spotted “the letter” from Special Olympics Maine.

“I opened it very slowly because I knew it was the decision letter,” said the almost-giddy 22-year-old. She was so quickly overwhelmed with the word “Congratulations” that she just started screaming. “I called Mom right away and she started screaming, too.”

Now the excitement turns to cheering for this athlete in her aquatics competition. Cailynn has been participating in Special Olympics since she was 8. Besides swimming, horseback riding

is Cailynn’s other sport and passion.

“When she was a baby, she suffered a stroke and had a hard time lifting her right leg and arm. When she was little, she couldn’t even grasp a pencil,” said Tina. That’s when two sports were introduced into Cailynn’s life that would become her passion and give her the strength she carries to the Olympics.

Mark Capano, director of programs for Special Olympics Maine, sees a quality athlete in Cailynn.

“She has displayed a wonderful presence and willingness to reach the next level,” Capano said. “For these athletes, it’s about achieving their personal best, not beating another athlete.”

This athlete has been in training ever since she received her letter last August that she was headed to Greece.

“My husband and I were ready to hire a trainer,” said Tina. “But Andrea Lee, who volunteers with Special Olympics, stepped up and has volunteered her talent and time. Cailynn’s confidence has grown because of Andrea’s support.”

Lee has volunteered with Special Olympics Maine for the past six years, and when Cailynn asked to be coached by Lee, it was an instant match.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” said Lee, as she readied herself for the pool. “Cailynn is just as good for me as I am for her. I, too, am developing my strengths as a coach, trainer and swimmer every day.”

It has been a Sunday ritual for this duo at the Lura Hoit Pool in Hampden since November.

“Andrea is awesome. She helps me get stronger and pushes me every time that we are working out together. I am tired, I have to say that,” said Cailynn with a chuckle. “I think I’m going to die, but I love it!”

Pool patrons check in with Cailynn as she counts down the days for the June 18 departure. Her Hampden Academy assistant swim coach of three years, Sam Manhart, also offers tips from his lane as he watches her train.

Teaching people with intellectual disabilities requires finding different ways to say the same thing, said Lee. “I have to use visuals many times,” a method that finds her in the water with her athlete watching the flip turns from underwater and demonstrating a better technique of kicking off the wall.

While in Greece, Cailynn will swim the 50-meter butterfly, now holding a time of 1:03; the 100-meter freestyle, now with a time of 1:35; and the butterfly in a medley relay.

As each day ticks by, Cailynn’s enthusiasm mounts and the butterflies kick in. Capano is sure it will be a successful journey, though.

“When selecting athletes to go to Worlds, we looked at those who could handle long-distance traveling, being away from their families, and handle the pressures that come with this,” he said.

Cailynn is no stranger to this routine as she has traveled with Special Olympics Maine and did a week of training this spring in California.

Cailynn is one of three athletes from Maine headed to Greece. Lee says it is such an honor to have Cailynn representing the USA. As for Capano, you’d think he was one of these athlete’s parents. “This is big,” he exclaimed. “It’s the pinnacle!”

Also participating from Maine in the Special Olympics in Greece will be Lewiston’s Megan Dyer and Matt Poulin of Damariscotta. Duane Hall of Brewer will go with the group as a volunteer and coach.

After participating in Special Olympics Maine’s State Olympics in Orono last weekend, and her role in Nationals in years past, Cailynn has got the routine down.

“When I am on the block,” she said, “I just breathe, and I know I will be done pretty soon, and I know I can do it.”

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