No matter if you’re participating in the Summer Olympics, Winter Olympics, Special Olympics or Paralympics, every Olympian who competes has one goal: to win gold.
Freehold Township High School swim team member and YMCA of Western Monmouth County club team member Christopher McMullen did that three times over the past two weeks at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece.
McMullen first won gold on June 29 in the 4x100m Freestyle Relay with a time of 4:35:52. Then on July 2, he took first place in the 200m Backstroke, with a time of 2:50:05, and one day later won gold in the 200m Breaststroke competition with a winning time of 3:18:79. Also on July 3, McMullen won bronze in the 400m Freestyle with a time of 5:22:89.
That success is no surprise to his coach of seven years at the Freehold YMCA of Western Monmouth County, Freehold branch, Paul Florio. Florio, the senior director of competitive aquatics at the Y, started working with McMullen seven years ago. He thinks some of McMullen's success comes from good time management.
“He does an outstanding job with his time management. He’s involved with his band at his school – he’s in the marching band. He’s on the high school [swim] team along with our club team. And then all of the school work that goes with it too. He does an excellent job. He has one of the better attendances of the swimmers on my team.”
McMullen winning the 200m races doesn’t surprise Florio, who says he excels at longer distances.
“We’ve put him in everything. I try to have him do a little bit of everything. He really does well at some of the longer stuff.”
McMullen was one of seven Special Olympics athletes from New Jersey who competed in Greece. Margo Lee, of Princeton Junction, competed in acquatics; Mark Halpern, of Fair Lawn, participated in running and relay events; Christina Vassar, of Cape May, also took part in running and relay events; Rebecca Visalli, of Mullica Hill, competed in bowling; and Padraig Westgate, of Howell, participated in bocce.
McMullen and his fellow New Jersey athletes arrived home on Wednesday with 17 medals and experiences to last a lifetime.