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Special Olympian from Richey wins gold in 1,500m, silver in 800m
Courtesy photo Anton Veverka, world champion 1,500-meter runner at the Special Olympics World Games, poses with the medals he won in late June at the games in Dublin, Ireland.

Neither frayed nerves nor sleep deprivation nor a stay in an Irish hospital could stop Anton Veverka from becoming a world champion.

Veverka, a 21-year-old runner from Richey, recently returned to Montana with a gold medal for winning the 1,500 meters at the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland. His time of 5:16 bested a group of other 16- to 21-year-old runners. He also won a silver medal in the 800-meter race.

Larry Veverka, Anton's father who farms and ranches on 7,000 acres in the northeastern Montana, said the accomplishment was something the entire family cherished.

"Anton finally had something he could feel good about for a change," the elder Veverka said in a recent phone interview. "Not everybody gets a gold medal."

Getting a gold medal is one thing. Getting to the track was another challenge altogether.

The trip from Great Falls to Denver and from Denver to Belfast left Anton sleep deprived, agitated and a bit disoriented. Those with him were worried enough that a physician with Special Olympics Montana suggested the young man be taken to the hospital, said Vicki Dunham, vice president of field services for SOMT.

"We had a midnight ambulance ride to the hospital in Dublin," Dunham said.

After a stay in the hospital and some rest, young Veverka was released just in time to run his race.

"He ran a perfect race," Dunham said, recalling how Andrew came from behind on the last lap, kicked the last 300 meters and finished nearly 15 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.

Veverka was one of 11 Montana athletes to compete in the world games, held for the first time off of the North American continent.

Devin Zaic, a powerlifter from St. Xavier, led the team with two gold and two silver medals. Dunham said Zaic achieved his personal best in the deadlift.

Other Montana athletes to medal at the world games were:

- Christine Munson, Bozeman, two gold medals in aquatics.

- Kerry Boise, Belgrade, two gold medals and one silver medal in the equestrian events.

- Josh Lewis, Great Falls, one gold medal and two silver medals in bowling.

- Joey Hancock, Great Falls, two silver medals in bowling.

- Paul Skalsky, Missoula, a gold and silver medal in equestrian events.

- Tawny Gray, Alberton, two bronze medals in equestrian events.

- Alischa Mason, Helena, gold, silver and bronze medals in aquatics.

- Christine Wendel, Columbia Falls, three silver medals in powerlifting.

- John Espinoza, Eureka, a bronze medal in 18-hole golf.