Special Olympics team gets the gold in Seoul - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Special Olympics team made of Siouxlanders gets the gold in Seoul

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -

You might see the Olympics as the highest level of competition.  There, a gold medal means you're the best of the best.

Nebraska's Special Olympics floor hockey team headed to Seoul, South Korea hoping to capture the gold.  They brought back more than just medals.

Friday night, at Sioux Gateway Airport was the place to be.

"I was actually supposed to work tonight, but I switched with someone, so that I could be here to welcome my team home," said Emily Taylor.

 Jenny Wood is among this crowd of dozens waiting for her husband, Jeff, and the U.S. Special Olympic floor hockey team to return from Seoul, South Korea.

"I feel very happy and blessed that they're here, supporting our team. It just makes me feel good that they're here for a good reason," said Jenny Wood of Algona, Iowa.

The crowd included family, friends, and others who've played in rec leagues with team members in South Sioux City, Nebraska.

"I'm very excited, I can't wait to see their faces," said Taylor.

After nearly 20 hours in the air, the U.S. Special Olympic floor hockey team arrived in Sioux City.  They came back a little bit tired, but triumphant.

"It's kind of surreal now to think that it's all over. We just put so much time into everything," said Jeff Wood.

This team of physically handicapped players and unified partners earned their Special Olympic berth by winning a tournament in Missouri last April.

"We've done an awful lot of running and a lot of passing of the puck. A lot of practice went into this," said Grier.

 On their way to gold in Seoul they played teams from three different continents. Back in Siouxland, they were greeted with a heroes' welcome.

 And with that, redemption for Wood, who came up just short during the 1997 games in Canada.

"It was something I thought I'd never get another chance at. My brother's on the team and the best friends in the world. And to win the gold, the way we did, it's just an amazing feeling," said Jeff Wood.

Not only did we go and win, but I saw the athletes grow and change so much, that it much just an invaluable to me. It was a wonderful experience," said Marla Grier, head coach of Team USA.

Team U-S-A's head coach Marla Grier raved about how her team came together.

"Jose Uribe made a goal one time with three seconds left in a game. That's not something that young man would have done before," said Grier.

For Uribe, that thrilling finish is only the beginning.

"It means everything. It's my first World Games since I've been with Special Olympics and I've been with the team for about 10 years now," said Jose Uribe.

Now, it'll be hard for the celebration to end. 

Wood made a vow when he left that if he won he'd wear the gold medal around wherever he went every day for a year.

            

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