Silver superstar

By Vanessa Wiltshire

THERE’S no further an athlete can go than the Olympic Games.

And that’s just what Laura Butler, 17, from Pyalong has done. Fresh from the Special Olympic Games in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) Laura won not one but three silver medals.

Created for people with an intellectual disability, the Special Olympics plays host to 7,000 athletes from 170 countries.

More than 700,000 Australians have an intellectual disability. Comprising the largest disability population in the world, one child is diagnosed with an intellectual disability every two hours in Australia.

Laura’s mother, Michelle, said Special Olympics provides year-round sports training in multiple sports as well as competition at local, state, national and international levels.

“People with intellectual disability can learn new skills and can accomplish goals. They just learn differently, or need more time to or support to succeed,” she said.

Though she’s downplaying her success, Laura can’t stop smiling.

The medals are remarkably heavy; Laura admitted that she wore them all the way home.

The Mitchell Shire teenager flew to the Middle East with her mother and the Australian team in mid-March. With just one week to acclimatise to the time zone, culture and climate, Laura’s Olympic adventure was compounded by a heavy cold.

But that didn’t stop her.

Michelle said that Laura is second best in the world in three events: the 200m, long jump and relay.

Navigating the challenges of an intellectual disability and autism, Laura has overcome a lot. But the Year 11 Broadford Secondary student deflects the attention.

And it won’t be long before she turns her sights back to the track. Michelle says that a second international event may be on the cards.

Laura also plans to coach and mentor young people with autism and intellectual disabilities, who want to fulfill their athletic potential.