Youngblood’s travels an inspiration to all [COLUMN]

What Mario Youngblood went through to collect his medals at the Special Olympics is nothing short of impressive. (FILE)

What Mario Youngblood went through to collect his medals at the Special Olympics is nothing short of impressive. (FILE)

What Mario Youngblood went through to collect his medals at the Special Olympics is nothing short of impressive.

He captured a gold medal in the high jump, one in the 4×100 relay and a bronze in the 100-meter dash. And from everything he told me, it wasn’t easy.

In the high jump, he and the second place competitor battled neck-and-neck. In the preliminaries, he and his opponent were deadlocked at 45 meters apiece. In the final, Mario was able to put together an amazing effort, taking the gold by three centimeters.

In the 4×100 relay, he staged a comeback for the ages, running down the leader in the final leg of the relay to nab the top spot on the podium.

What stood out to me as I interviewed him at the snack shop at Davis Drug Store in Columbiana wasn’t his athletic ability so much as it was the way he handled his success.

I’m hard-pressed to think of another champion with a better balance of humility and humanity than Youngblood.

Most people would stand on the top of the stand basking in the cheers of the crowd and reveling in the glory of their athletic prowess.

Not Mario Youngblood.

I was taken aback when he told me that instead of celebrating his win in the high jump, he tried to hide his joy to keep from making the competitor he out-jumped feel bad.

Instead of bragging about being the best in the country at something, he seemed to laugh about what he did. He was proud of his medals, no doubt about it, but he seemed to take it all in stride.

Keep in mind he did this all alone. He had teammates, yes, but no one from Shelby County went with him. No family, no friends, no fans. It was his first time on a plane, in a faraway state.

I don’t think I could do it. Could you?

I guess what I’m trying to say in this space was best summed up by one of the ladies working behind the counter of the drug store:

“He’s a very special young man.”

Yes ma’am, he is. And he has a new fan in me.