Former Destrehan High swimmer selected for Special Olympics World Games in Berlin

Michael Love and his swim coach Meagan Danos.

Earlier this year, Michael Love called the opportunity to travel to Berlin to compete in the Special Olympic World Games a dream that he hoped would soon become a reality.

Today it is very real.

Love, who captured silver and bronze medals at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, has indeed been selected to compete in the 2023 World Games, where he will be the only Louisiana athlete to compete and one of only nine swimmers across the country who will be making the journey.

“I was ecstatic,” Love said of hearing the news. “I never thought it would be me, but it was. I was the one who was chosen.”

The Special Olympics World Games take place every two years and alternate between Summer and Winter Games, a schedule similar to the Olympics and Paralympics. With as many as 350,000 volunteers and coaches, plus several thousand athletes, these World Games could become the biggest sporting event in the world of the year. The World Games offer more than a week of competition involving thousands of athletes. Media coverage of the Games brings the stories and achievements of children and adults with intellectual disabilities to millions of people around the world.

The 2023 Games will be held from 17 to 25 June.

Michael’s mother Connie said she and her husband cried tears of joy when the family got the call.

“It’s been amazing. You see all his hard work, his dreams, everything you’ve seen over the years, going to his swim meets and all those hours he’s spent in the pool, and it all leads him to this. We were speechless,” said Connie.

She and Love’s brother Daniel will make the journey – Daniel has long been an inspiration to Michael.

“He says his brother is his idol,” Connie said. “He’ll say, ‘My brother used to say ‘if I can do it, so can you’.”

Daniel is a very skilled wrestler and his success on the mat is one thing that pushed Love to become very proficient in the pool.

“Daniel motivates him and pushes him,” said Connie.

In Orlando, Love and his seven swim teammates were part of a collection of 58 Louisiana athletes who competed in the games from June 6 to 11. A total of 5,500 athletes competed in this year’s games, with participants from all 50 states and the Caribbean.

Love took silver in the 4×50-meter free relay and bronze in the 50-meter butterfly. He also took fourth place in the 100m freestyle – despite not feeling well during his competition that day.

The difference between Love and the champion 4×50 relay was about one-hundredth of a second.

“It felt great,” Love said. “The whole experience was great. I made friends from Hawaii, Texas, Nevada… meeting new people was exciting. I was ready to go there and ready to fight, but also open to meeting new people. And it was great.

The time trials for Berlin will take place in San Antonio later this month. The preparations for this – and for next year’s competitions – have already started.

“He swims five days a week, at least two hours a day,” Connie said. And he’s a freshman at Delgado now, not in high school anymore (so he’s dealing with time constraints). He trains two days a week in the gym and five in the pool.”

Love is dieting to lose weight and increase its speed.

“All his focus is on school and swimming,” Connie said.

Love said he used Berlin as a motivator during the USA Games.

“I said to myself, if I win this, I’m going to Berlin,” said Love. “But whatever happens, a silver and a bronze, a 4th place… I am proud of that.”

Love was diagnosed with autism as a young child. He was non-verbal until he was about 5, but it’s gotten to this point since then – he now speaks in public and advocates for people with intellectual disabilities. He started swimming with the local chapter of the Special Olympics program at age 6 and was competing at age 8.

Love was also a member of the Destrehan High swim team for four years. He is a health messenger for the state of Louisiana, a global health messenger, and an athlete leader for the Special Olympics.

He is very much looking forward to next summer.

“Just seeing the scenery there…I can’t wait to go,” he said.

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