CATOOSA — The smile says it all.
Liz Hubert is proof of how much the Special Olympics improve the lives of its athletes.
Hubert, one of 17 Special Olympians at Catoosa, has already been interviewed on national television, has improved her strength and is thriving thanks in large part of the Special Olympics program and her coach Shelley Gibson.
Gibson is much more than a coach. She is also the director of the Catoosa Special Olympics team and has been for the past 20 years. She is also the school’s special education teacher.
“All of the above,” Gibson said.
And Hubert is one of her prized pupils.
Hubert, a 2014 graduate of Catoosa High School and a current employee at Walmart, is quite the powerlifter. Her aim is four gold medals at the Summer Games in Stillwater May 16-18.
Her improvement since the beginning has been impressive. In the bench press, she was barely able to lift the 50-pound bar. Now, her best is more than 100 pounds heavier — 160 pounds. She also has a personal record of 235 pounds in the squat and 255 pounds in the deadlift.
She is hooked.
“My sister (Danae) was a powerlifter,” Hubert said. “It was in the family.”
Danae competed at nationals in 2010, and five years later, Liz competed at the World Games in Los Angeles where she came home with three silver medals and one bronze medal. She and her coach were also interviewed by ESPN at the event.
“It’s like I’m used to it,” Hubert said of the big stage.
Gibson’s program has nine sports for the athletes — powerlifting, bowling, basketball, volleyball, soccer, golf, track, unified football and horseshoes. There are also Special Olympic helpers for the athletes.
“We also have partners, who are regular students who come in and work with the kids and they compete on the field together at the same time,” Gibson said. “
Hubert said she is going to keep lifting as long as she can — and changing stereotypes about Special Olympians and about girls lifting weights.
“I don’t want anybody to say powerlifting is a male sport and a female can’t do it,” Gibson said. “I’ve had several females who have done very well. The Special Olympics have given her an opportunity to do things she otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. And then she gets to go and shine and show the world what these athletes can do. They have an ability — and quit focusing on their disability — focus on what they can do. I’m a pretty proud coach, can’t you tell?”
Hubert has been chosen to represent Oklahoma in a competition in Seattle this July.
So powerlifting is still taking her places.
But the best part of all this is being at home and getting support from her team and her town.
“It’s really exciting because they cheer on everybody,” Hubert said. “You can hear them in the background and that’s exciting for me because I don’t every give up lifting it.”