Youngblood ‘as good as gold’ at Special Olympics

Columbiana native Mario Youngblood took home two gold medals at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games June 14-21. (Reporter Photo/Drew Granthum)

Columbiana native Mario Youngblood took home two gold medals at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games June 14-21. (Reporter Photo/Drew Granthum)

By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Editor

COLUMBIANA — With just a little distance remaining in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games 4×100 relay, Columbiana native Mario Youngblood knew he had to make a move. Having travelled all the way to Princeton, N.J., all by himself, he told himself that finishing in second was just not an option.

“I’m actually thinking ‘I’ve got to pass this guy before he gets to the finish line, I’ve got to catch him,’” he said.

Youngblood summoned up his strength, catching — and eventually passing — his competitor on his way to the gold medal. When looking back on the event, Youngblood said he can’t put his finger on what made him find the extra gear, he just knew he had to get by his competitor.

“I really can’t say what (was) going through my mind,” he said. “I’ve got a lot going on.“

The win marked the second gold medal of the event for Youngblood, which was special for a number of reasons, he said.

“I didn’t really think I was going to come out with two golds like that,” he said laughing. “They said I was the first person from Alabama to win two gold medals, everyone else had won one. It was pretty fun.”

In addition to his success in the relay, Youngblood took home first place in the high jump. He said he tried to remain subdued in the ceremony out of sportsmanship.

“I was happy, (but) I was trying not to show it, because the kid (in second) looked kind of sad,” he said. “I was really happy, but I felt bad for him. He jumped his heart out, and he competed with me.”

Youngblood said the relay gold was the harder of the two to earn.

“That one was questionable because I had to catch up,” he said. “The kid literally was five feet in front of me. He slowed down, so once I caught him, I just left him behind. The hard part was catching up.”

To accomplish this feat, Youngblood travelled more than 900 miles, all of them completely alone. It was his first time on an airplane and visiting the state of New Jersey.

“I’m the only person from Shelby County who went,” he said. “It was just me. It’s kind of hard. I really missed everybody back at home. I really missed my granddad.”

Youngblood said he was also concerned about not knowing anyone on his relay team.

“I was nervous. I’m used to somebody from Shelby County going with me,” he said. “I ran the relay with people I wasn’t used to running the relay with. It was hard to do it, too. It was different from people I know. They know how to hand off to me.”

Despite any fears he had, Youngblood said he was proud of two gold medals, as well as the bronze he earned in the 100-meter dash.

After clinching his second gold, Youngblood said he stopped and thought about representing his state, school and city, and what the wins meant to him and his home.

“I thought about it when I won,” he said. “It feels really good. I just feel good about what I did.”