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Special Olympian Wins World Gold

By Beth Cassidy Olympics World Summer Games. They Shortly after 9/11, after one of her
Davie County Enterprise Record left Sept. 26 and returned Oct. 13. colleagues was killed when the World
For Brzescinski, it was the trip of a Trade Center collapsed, she turned in
While most athletes and fans are lifetime. her notice and began working on a horse
preparing for the 2008 Olympics in "This whole thing started out as a farm. Not happy with conditions there
China, one Davie coach and participant fluke. The head of the Davie program, and realizing most barns would operate
have already been there and come home Kathy Streit, asked me if they could use the same way, Brzescinski began
victorious. my bam for their classes. Once I got to looking for a place to relocate.
Marissa Brzescinski, assistant coach meet the athletes land see what it was That place ended up to be the
of the Special Olympics Team USA all about, it was a no-brainer, I knew I Dixieland Farm off Godbey Road.
Equestrian Team, and Delaney Hansen, wanted to help. That was four years The first time she saw the farm was
an equestrian from Iredell County who ago." right after a big ice storm in 2002, but
rides in Davie County, brought home Brzescinski, who moved here from she knew right away it was where she
one bronze and two gold medals. New York with her husband, Kris, in wanted to be. The farm is now home to
Brzescinski is the head coach of the early 2003, had never flown as far as Brzescinski and her husband, as well as
Special Olympics Davie team. China, but she's been a "horse person" their four horses, 19 other horses
She and Delaney flew, along with most of her life. She and Kris worked boarded there, and other pets. Married
other athletes and coaches from North in television news in New York, she as two years, Brzescinski said they don't Delaney Hansen shows off her
Carolina and across the US, over 16 a cameraman and he as a helicopter gold medal from the Special
hours to Shanghai for the 2007 Special photographer. Please See Gold - Page BIO Olympics World Games in China.

810 - DAVIE COUNTY ENTERPRISE RECORD, Thursday, Dec, 6, 2007

Dixieland Farms in the Davie Academy community is among the places where Special Olympics gold medal winner Delaney Hansen trains. - Photo by Robin S

Continued From Page B 1 functioning," said Brzescinski. "Once assigned a horse, each horses 'the great equalizers,'
have children, but she enjoys The games marked the first athlete was given a chance to because you can take a non-
being everyone's "favorite time the event was held in Asia ride the horse briefly, about 20 handicapped person who has
aunt," especially to the children and only the second time it was minutes, to determine if the never been on a horse before,
who ride at the farm, held outside the US. horse was a good match. Once and you can take a person with
Four years ago, one of those "The opening ceremonies matched, each athlete was disabilities who has never been
children, Delaney, was a quiet were Oct. 2 and featured an permitted a short warm-up on 'a horse before, and neither
14-year-old who wouldn't elaborate display equal to or period before each competition one of them will know what they
consider tacking her own horse. surpassing any Olympic or class. The time ranged from are doing.
Now, Brzescinski said, she is ceremonies I have ever seen. 20 minutes on a generous day to But the biggest high to me is
outgoing and "does it all," Celebrity guests included Gov. only two minutes on some of the to see someone I teach be able
helping others learn how to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who more crazy days. to do it on their own for the first
groom and tack horses, and even led Team USA into the stadium, "Keep in mind that these time. They fulfill in me the need
pointing out to Brzcscinski if Jackie Chan, Colin Farrell, athletes are expected to do more to teach and see the results of
something isn't done right. Quincy Jones and Ziyi Zhang, than any Olympic athlete. They that teaching. God willing, I will Delaney Hansen rides her assigned horse, whict
"She is wise beyond her from Mulan and Memoirs of a are asked to ride a horse they've continue to do this." named "Reno" after a horse she rides at Dixieland f
years. She went from being a Geisha. Closing ceremonies never seen before, with little
little girl to being a young were Oct. II and were just as warm-up or prep time, after
woman, and she amazes me with spectacular, with performances having no opportunity to
her leadership skills and by Jose Carrera and a fireworks practice since departing from
compassion. ,. display that seemed to go on their home state. Non-Special
Delaney rides with the Davie forever," Olympic riders take their own
team because there is no There were more than 160 horses and are at the venue for
equestnan team in Iredell countries represented, some weeks preceding the games,
County. Delaney was the only Brzescinski said she had never preparing and ttaining."
Special Olympic equestrian even heard of before. Over 7,000 At Dixieland Farm, about 25
from NC competing in the athletes participated. Special Olympic athletes ride
games. Team USA's equestrian team each Wednesday and Friday.
Brzescinski said her time had nine athletes, from NC. Brzescinski teaches English
with Delaney in China was Texas, Idaho, Maine, Montana hunters, jumpers and dressage.
something she would never and Maryland, and four coaches, They are expected to learn how
forget. from NC, Texas and Kentucky. to brush, tack and lead the
"Even in the best of The US team was the third horses, skills Brzescinski said
circumstances, it's hard to take largest equestrian team. Chin-a are just as important as riding.
a teen away from their family for had the most riders, 32, and She offers lessons to other riders,
three weeks. But I would not Germany had II. young and old. She seems
hesitate to do it all over again," The equestrian team brought amazed at where she is in life,
Delaney Hansen (center) on the medal stand with her gold medal in the Er
she said. home a total of three gold, six but completely at peace with it.
Equitation competition, The' female athlete on the left is from Uruguay, an
Delaney, like the other riders, silver and four bronze medals. "The day before we were
going to move here, with the
athlete on the right is young man from Egypt.
have a variety of disabilities, They competed in Dressage,
ranging from Asperger's Prix Caprilli (jumping), Working moving van all packed and
syndrome, an autism spectrum Trails, English Equitation, Team ready, I could feel a freak out
disorder, to Down's syndrome, Relay and the Figure-S Stake coming on. I said, 'Jesus, I don't
to developmental delays, and Race. know if I'm doing the right thing
hearing impairments. One of Athletes were not able to take here. I don't need a burning
Brzescinski's students suffers their own horses, but were bush, but I do need some kind
from developmental delays and assigned horses through a lottery of sign that I'm doing the right
is paralyzed on the left side of system. They were furnished by thing.' We were on our way to
her body, due to two serious car the Chinese, and Brzescinski Kris' mom's house, and just
accidents when she was young. said most were native Chinese then, a car with a North Carolina
All of the II NC athletes who horses from the western part of tag got in front of me and stayed
wept to China were "high- the country. in front of me all the way to her
house. I said, 'Well, I really
didn't need that burning bush.
but thanks.' That was it. That
was my sign.
"I think this is why I was put
here, why my husband and I
were directed down here to
North Carolina. I had given
riding lessons to handicapped
children before, but this was the
first time I had committed
myself on a grander scale to do
something for them. Not
everyone feels comfortable Team USA equestrian members, from left: front - James Taylor (Texas), Tawny
working with this population, (Montana), Erin Strevig (Maryland), Delaney Hansen (North Carolina), Sava
but really, all they want is to be Henstock (Idaho), Julie Bertelsen (Montana), Angela Simmons (Texas); back - J
treated like everyone else. J call Guiseley (Maine) and Danny Grau (Maryland).