ASD Fitness Center hosted a meet-and-greet for Special Olympic athletes with two-time Olympian and bronze medalist Dan Walsh Tuesday, July 16. Walsh, a Norwalk native and graduate of Brien McMahon High School, won a bronze medal with the United States Men’s 8+rowing team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. His professional rowing career spans 15 years, including 11 years on U.S. Rowing’s Senior National team, a bronze medal at the 2006 World Championships, and two Olympic Games.
“Congratulations to all of my fellow athletes!” Walsh said to the crowd of 20 athletes who played in the 2017 Special Olympics in June. “I’m excited to be here so we can talk about our successes, but also about some of our struggles,” he said.
“I was a very shy, awkward and easily intimidated kid who came out of my shell to compete on the world stage,” he said. “It took hard work and many tests in adversity, and there were many times when I felt like I wanted to quit, but our spirit makes us want to keep pushing through.”
Walsh talked about his accomplishments and his struggles, admitting that his journey was not always smooth sailing. “It’s important that we take away something positive when things get hard, and most importantly, keep pushing harder.”
The Special Olympic athletes shared some of their successes and struggles with the crowd. One shared that he went from being very scared to enter the water at the pool to winning a medal for a race. Another shared that he originally tried to run at the Olympic Games, but after doing some soul searching, he decided he simply didn’t enjoy running – he decided to enter walking events, instead.
Walsh’s pediatrician, seeing that the boy was a bit lost without a hobby or sport at 11 years old, steered him to rowing and he was instantly hooked. In 2004, he was called upon to be a spare for the men’s eight when a rower became ill. He did not compete in those games, but was a member of the 2008 team.
“A gold medal would have been nice, but it’s also nice to say I came so close to that with a bronze medal,” he said. He now coaches the New Canaan High School rowing team and at Maritime Rowing Club.
Gym owner Adam Leapley said it was important to him to celebrate the accomplishments of the Special Olympians and he appreciated that Walsh volunteered his time to help him do that. “I wanted to celebrate the athletes who participated and celebrate their successes,” he said. “I thought it would be really neat if they could meet a bronze medalist Olympian.”