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Perham grad Amanda Wothe-- a special athlete

On August 20, Perham High School graduate Amanda Wothe celebrated her golden birthday -- 20 on the 20th. She's got so much more to celebrate than this milestone, though.

For instance, the winning of her 39th Special Olympic medal, competing at the national level. Or finally meeting her music favorite Billy Ray Cyrus. Or being in an ad in Time Magazine, set to hit newsstands Aug. 25 -- just to name a few.

"She's had a really great year," Tammy Wothe said of her daughter. "She's (reached) quite bit of accomplishments."

When Carlson Toyota called Tammy to ask Amanda to be a part of the ad for Time Magazine -- "they called at the last minute" -- Tammy got her daughter ready and headed for the Twin Cities. At the time, Amanda had 34 of her medals for the picture. The 39 she has now have been earned in just six years.

"The Perham area decided to start a team," for Special Olympics, Tammy explains of how her daughter first got into the competition. Amanda, who has Down Syndrome, started in the track and field competition, and soon added bowling and rhythmic gymnastics, her favorite. Due to her "dance ability and flexibility" -- and 10 years of training with Just for Kix -- the dance-style gymnastics is a natural for Amanda.

She isn't just about participating in Special Olympics, though. Amanda is in the athlete leadership program, she has spoken in front of 400 people and graduated school with honors.

Amanda has even spoke on behalf of Special Olympics at national competitions and at the Mall of America. Locally, she was selected as one of the graduation speakers for Perham High School's Class of 2008.

The physical participation in the Special Olympics has taken its toll on Amanda, but she hasn't let that hold her back.

One year, she suffered a level 3 sprained ankle during her hoop routine. Instead of sitting out, she iced and wrapped the ankle, went out and performed, earning not one but five more medals. She has also fractured her arm during competition.

Now at level 4 status in her rhythmic gymnastics competition, Amanda has earned the right to design her own routine. Tammy is helping, as well as Amanda's younger sister, Maggie, a dancer herself. Tammy also serves as a coach for Amanda and other Special Olympic athletes. Some days she finds it hard to find that line between coach and mom.

"We want to protect her because she's our top gymnast," she said, the coach side stepping forward.

Maggie has trained to be a helper with the Special Olympics, and serves as a junior coach. She also helps Amanda with her dance routines, something her sister sees and appreciates.

"She's an expert in helping," Amanda said of her younger sister. "She has smart ideas and is an amazing dancer."

In time, they can also compete together as unified partners in the gymnastics routine.

After mastering area, state and now national competitions, Amanda's next goal is world competition. And her family is in full support, especially with the competition in Italy.

"We're already planting the seed," Tammy said.

As much as she's won and the pride that comes along with that, Amanda doesn't seem to care about the pile of medals she's earned as much as the camaraderie.

"I like hanging out with my friends and doing karaoke afterwards," said Amanda. She says that is her favorite part of Special Olympics. And while her mother describes her as a perfectionist, Amanda said, "I don't care (about winning). I like training for it."

Tammy said anyone can see that from watching a Special Olympics meet. If a runner were to fall, all competitors will stop to make sure that person is up and fine before continuing the race.

That drive to keep going is plain to see in her daughter. Tammy said Amanda has come a long way from when the Wothes were told that Amanda would never be able to be mainstreamed with other students, and that she would never talk. Amanda has plenty to say.

"We wouldn't be where we are today," if she and her husband, Jason, had listened to doctors, Tammy said.

One of those places she might not have been at was earlier this month when Amanda got to meet country singer Billy Ray Cyrus when he played at WE Fest.

Tammy, who works at WE Fest, got permission to bring Amanda to a meet-and-greet with Cyrus. She wore her Hannah Montana T-shirt, which Cyrus noticed right away as his daughter, Miley, is the star of the show.

Amanda's future goals include getting her driver's permit, owning her own home and climbing a mountain. She will be going to work at the Work Center in Detroit Lakes this fall, maybe to save toward that new house.

"She's a very big goal-setter for the future," Tammy said of her daughter. "Amanda will not settle for anything less."

Besides the Special Olympics sports already offered, the Perham chapter will be starting a swimming team as well. Anyone interested in helping with Special Olympics can contact Corrine Schattschneider at 218-758-3138.


Editor's Note: Much of this article was written by Pippi Mayfield, and appeared in the August 20 edition of the Detroit Lakes Tribune.