Inspiring An Athlete

Jareen Imam,(courtsey CNN)

Rachel Miller's son John is profoundly disabled. He is autistic and unable to speak. Unable to speak, he withdrew from people at school and, worse, from his family.
In March 2003, Miller was introduced to Jeff Hancock, a one-on-one therapist for people with autism, and things started to feel a little more manageable. But John's coach, Jeff Hancock looked beyond the disability from the time, he and John were introduced in 2003. n May 2014, John's training brought him to the Special Olympics State Summer Games in Orlando. The 18-year-old was competing in the 800 meters and the 110-meter hurdles.
Here John jumps hurdles during a track event in Stuart, Florida. In May 2014, John won the Gold medal for 800 meters and Silver for 100 meters hurdles at the Special Olympics State Summer Games in Orlando. Hancock also taught John to surf. Through years of companionship, friendship and dedication, Hancock became John's life coach.
As the 800 was setting up, Miller remembered, she pressed her face against the fence, anxiously waiting for John to compete. The lanes were filled and the runners took their positions. Miller's mind raced: Would John would be OK in front of hundreds of cheering spectators? Would he would trip? Would he even finish?
But as soon as the race started, her fears melted away, and all Miller saw was an athlete, her athlete.
"I just wanted to see the best performance. It seemed much more significant than whether he would ever speak or respond to me," she said.
John ended up winning the gold medal for the 800.
Sports completely changed John, and Miller said that is because of Hancock. "A person with a disability can feel hopeless and isolated, and I think that can happen to parents, too. Jeff probably saw that with us," Miller said, thinking back to when Hancock first met their family.
"John was never expected to be an athlete," Miller said. "But if John could speak, he would say his coach always expected it."

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