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Special Olympics: The heart of Justin Jr

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When Justin Wasil rides through his Senoia neighborhood, he feels free. The 19 year old says, “I love cycling. It's my favorite thing to do."

And it’s something his dad, Justin Wasil, Sr. loves to watch. He says, “He rides his bike everywhere. He’s always, whoosh! He breaks more tires, frames, chains. I've got a bike junkyard out back, we could put together five or six!"

Now 19, and graduating later this month from East Coweta High School, Justin often struggled in school because of learning disabilities. But when he joined Special Olympics four years ago, something clicked. His father says the competition for people with intellectual disabilities gave Justin something important: the chance to lead. His dad says, “To go from the one that needed the help... He had ADHD real bad, and now he's keeping everyone else in line. I feel like it gave him a sense leadership. He has a natural desire to just take over the situation. "

Justin has earned at least 20 medals, many of the gold. But there is one award that stands out. He says, “I look back at that one race, I helped that kid." Justin was awarded the 2011 Coach Henry Seldon Award for outstanding sportsmanship on the field and in the classroom. It was for a bike race he could have won, but didn't.

Justin was on his bike, a lap or two from the finish line at the Coweta County Special Olympics. He says, “A kid broke the chain right in front of me."

Now, remember, Justin likes to fix things. So that’s what he did. He says, “I jumped off my bike, last lap, too. I said, "Here you go, let me fix your bike, win the race. He said, no, no, no."

Because Justin, headed for another gold medal, was offering his bike to his competitor. He says, “I gave him my bike and I let him finish that last lap. I am walking, I am walking with the other bike, and I'm like, "I'm going to finish!"

He did finish. At the back of the pack, with a broken bike and a big smile. He says, “I felt proud. Helping out another. I used to get picked on in middle school. I don't like people to pick on me. I don't like that."

Later this month, Justin will graduate from East Coweta High School. And in June he’ll be back on his bike, this time competing in the Special Olympics USA Games. His father says, “I’ve always told him, "Never have limits. Never let people tell you what you can and you can't do. Or what you can't overcome."

Justin Jr.is a reminder life isn't about winning - or even medals. His dad says, “It's about the game. It's just loving the game."

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