CRYSTAL LAKE – After 16 years as a Special Olympics athlete, Brent Kampert is headed to the biggest competition in the country.
Kampert will represent Team Illinois when about 3,500 of the nation's best Special Olympics athletes converge in New Jersey for the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games from June 14 to June 21. It will be the third national Special Olympics competition after it debuted in Ames, Iowa in 2006.
Kampert, a 28-year-old Crystal Lake resident, will compete in four events, including the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, long jump and 4x100-meter relay. He brings an impressive résumé after being named co-captain of his high school track team in 2005 and earning Junior Male Athlete of the Year by the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association in 2001.
“It is a great honor to represent Team Illinois,” Kampert said. “I like Special Olympics because it makes special needs people feel more included and connected and respected.”
Doctors did not know whether Kampert would ever walk or talk after he was diagnosed with hypoglycemia, ADHD and epilepsy, but Dave Dauphin said Kampert has blossomed into one of the best athletes he has seen.
Dauphin, who has served as Kampert's coach for the past seven years at NISRA, said Kampert has lived in the gym ever since he was informed he would be representing Team Illinois and even brought on a personal trainer and running coach to help him prepare.
"Brent has always been one of our fastest athletes, and for the last year he has been nothing but the perfect athlete," Dauphin said. "It's been neat to watch him take this on. If he doesn't get a first-place medal, he'll be just fine knowing he gave it his all. When he comes back, the others are going to look up to him and be inspired."
Kampert's selection to the USA Games did not surprise those who know him.
Jenny Bell, who works with Kampert at Dick's Sporting Goods in Algonquin, said Kampert's passion for competing and sports is evident at work, where he will even come in on his days off to talk about his progress and training with co-workers.
She said everyone at the store is excited for Kampert and has been encouraging him since he was selected to compete.
"We're all friends with him, and we'll message him on Facebook and try to inspire him," Bell said. "It's super exciting for him, and we share in his enthusiasm."
The 2014 Special Olympics USA Games kicked off Friday with a "virtual sendoff" that encouraged people to share photographs and messages on social media to inspire the athletes as they leave for New Jersey for final practices.
Numerous FOX affiliates will provide TV coverage of the events and stories of the USA Games.