Kevin Rates and his Kentucky teammates on the 4x100 relay for the USA Games Special Olympics had practiced together one time before they began running preliminaries in Orlando, Florida.
“It was the first time I had done a relay race,” said Rates, who lives in Hancock County. “We practiced one time together, the people I competed with were from different parts of the state, it was hard for us to get together.”
The team that included Rates in the third leg, leadoff Michaela Hickerson (Louisville), second leg Caitlin Roy (Finchville), and anchor Trevor Yates (Shepherdsville) won the gold medal in 1:03.570, finishing .87 seconds ahead of a team from Idaho.
“Some of the time we got it pretty good, some of the time we were struggling some,” Rates said. “Then in the actual relay race, we got the hang of it.”
Rates also won a silver medal in the shot put with 10.67 meters, which was better than the prelims by .08 meters. Conner Smith of Arizona won. Rates was also fifth in the long jump (3.75 meters).
“It’s probably the shot put that I like best,” said Rates, who is 38. “I guess it’s because I’ve done it so many times.”
It wasn’t just the first time in the relay for Rates, but also his first time flying. It was also his first time at the USA Special Olympics.
“I slept most of the time, but it was fun,” Rates said of his flight to Orlando.
His mom, Peggy, said her and dad, Leon, got highlights from family members who were watching Kevin compete on live stream. Peggy and Leon planned to go, but he had surgery and they couldn’t make the trip.
“We talked to him by phone, our kids kept up with Kevin on the Internet,” Peggy said. “The kids would call us about what he did and were all excited.”
Leon said he enjoyed watching a clip of Kevin congratulating the shot put winner after that competition.
“Kevin went over and gave him a big hug, a lot of our friends and family know how kind hearted Kevin is,” Leon said.
“Kevin has such a great attitude about everything in life, it’s real sweet,” Peggy said.
The Rates family has a long athletic tradition in Hancock County. Kevin said he likes being in track events and competing.
“All our kids have been in sports in some way, it’s kind of competitive around here,” Peggy said. “I was proud of him.”
There were a couple of other medalists from the region in the USA Special Olympics also. Torrey Thompson and Mark McKinney from Ohio County were silver medalists in the Unified Pairs. Thompson also won a bronze medal in singles.
“Absolutely we were real happy,” said McKinney, Thompson’s unified partner. “It was mine and Torrey’s first time going to nationals. We had to win gold at state to qualify, and we have won six state championships. I liked meeting the other Bocce players from different states. We had a total of 6,000 athletes from all the states together. Team Kentucky took 48 athletes.”