Special Olympics: Athlete Allison Leehaug - FOX 35 News Orlando

Special Olympics: Athlete Allison Leehaug

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Special Olympics is full of fierce competitors and Allison Leehaug is perhaps among the most fierce.

The 2010 Lincolnway Special Recreation Association Athlete of the Year will represent team Illinois in the upcoming USA games. Her confidence not only helps Allison stand out, it also inspires her teammates.

Ask Leehaug how many Special Olympics gold medals hang in her room, and you get a quick answer.

"98 to be exact,” she says. “It will be 99."

The 25-year-old is hoping 99 will come at the USA Games in June. Talented in basketball, bowling, and softball, Allison prefers to take things to higher levels.

“Probably the high jump is what I like the best,” Leehaug says. “It's more action packed I think."

Allison won her first Special Olympics gold at age 8 -- the first time she stepped on the field.

"At the time we didn't know that she won a gold medal. It was her first participation," Allison’s mother Julie remembers.

That first competition has spawned almost 20 years of success. Success that Allison’s mother Julie says helped her daughter grow as an athlete and a person.

"She’s going to New Jersey,” Julie explains. “She wouldn't be able to do that stuff without Special Olympics. It’s really amazing."

Coach Tami Pareti calls Allison's sportsmanship amazing.

"She can compete against someone and lose, and go up and say ‘Hey, great game,’" Pareti says.

As social as she is competitive, Allison is the first one to welcome new Special Olympics athletes to the team, playing the role of mentor and sometimes coach.

"I have to,” she says. “When I do, it's showing them the ropes when I have to."

"She has always been very independent and competitive, but in the past five years, she has really shown a lot of confidence in herself,” Pareti says of Leehaug. “I think that's do to Special Olympics."

About that 'confidence' -- ask Allison about competing. It's hard to miss.

"My family has been pushing me to do it for so long. You know what, I go all the way anytime any day. Anyone want to go after me, than i say bring it!"

Allison also loves arts and crafts, video games and a good game of hoops. FOX 32 wishes her well at the USA Games in June. In the coming weeks, FOX 32 will profile more Illinois athletes set to compete in the USA Games.

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