Billings Special Olympics athlete headed to world games ceremonies in South Korea

2012-11-06T00:00:00Z 2013-05-15T16:17:12Z Billings Special Olympics athlete headed to world games ceremonies in South KoreaBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Between nibbles of a slice of pepperoni pizza, Vivienne Shockley took a moment to practice the opening lines of the speech she plans to give to thousands of people from across the globe in a few months.

"I am an adult with intellectual disabilities," she said. "But I'm the same as everybody else, and I'm happy with who I am."

Those words are the beginning of a statement she'll make at the 2013 Special Olympics World Games, to be held in January in South Korea, as one of just 10 athletes from around the world chosen to take part in the games' Law Enforcement Torch Run.

The games begin in late January and will draw thousands — athletes, coaches, family members and spectators — to the South Korean city of Pyeongchang in late January for the winter games.

As part of the Torch Run, which has raised more than $400 million worldwide through law enforcement efforts for the Special Olympics, Shockley will help run the Flame of Hope into the opening ceremonies. The flame is then used to light a cauldron and kick off the games.

"Only 10 get chosen to do it," Shockley said. "You'll never get to do something like it again."

A Special Olympics Montana (SOMT) athlete for the past 20 years, the 31-year-old Billings woman has been a mainstay in Special Olympics Montana over that time, participating in numerous events, particularly power lifting, and serving as Global Messenger.

Her mother, Sheryl Shockley, said that she's watched her daughter blossom through her involvement in SOMT, going from being a shy kid to a confident, sociable woman who doesn't flinch at the prospect of speaking in front of thousands of people or being chosen to run for the world games.

"To say that I'm proud of her, that doesn't even come close to how I feel," she said. "Proud doesn't even begin to describe it."

When Vivienne Shockley received word on Memorial Day that she'd head to South Korea early next year, the news didn't hit her right away.

"It took a while to settle in," she said. "And then I started to cry."

Not long after the SOMT summer games, Shockley and her mom began training for the final leg of the Torch Run, which will take the runners through about 700 miles over six days, with stops in about two dozen South Korean cities along the way.

The training includes three days a week of running and two of weightlifting. During the Torch Run, she's likely to run five or six miles each day, but no more than one mile at a time.

"It's hard to run with the torch," Shockley said. "Your arms get tired."

But the trip won't be all running for Shockley. During the trip, she said she plans on making "a hundred new friends," especially among the 132 other people participating in the torch run.

That number includes two other U.S. athletes and — adding a touch of home for Shockley — a coach and two law enforcement officers from Montana.

She's also looking forward to participating in another Special Olympics tradition that has caught hold in Montana while in Korea: The Polar Plunge, where participants hop into icy water over the winter to raise money for Special Olympics.

In South Korea, they'll be jumping into the Sea of Japan near the city of Gangneung.

"I'm going to dress up like Wonder Woman for the plunge," Shockley said with a grin.

While the trip is completely paid for, Shockley is raising money for the plunge leading up to the South Korea trip. Half of what she raises — she's already received about $2,500 in pledges — goes to overall athlete expenses, while the rest goes back to SOMT.

"It doesn't cost her anything to go, but we have the ability to raise the money, so that's something we're going to do," Sheryl Shockley said.

The torchbearers are also encouraged to bring a small piece of home with them, and Shockley will do that with loved ones. While she would like to have a whole photo album, she's settling for a few of her family members and one of Dave Hedley, a Sanders County Sheriff's Office deputy who passed away earlier this year and was very involved in the Montana Torch Run.

Shockley said she doesn't know exactly what to expect for the whole trip but that she's excited to even have been chosen to help carry the torch, something that, through her involvement with SOMT, means a great deal to her.

"I'll be in Torch Run until I die," she said. "And I'll be having fun doing it."

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