Athlete selected for World Special Olympics in Greece

Amanda Bass may be the most unassuming world-class athlete you will ever meet.

As she prepares for the biggest event of her life, halfway around the world in Greece, Bass says she is mostly looking forward to sightseeing and meeting the athletes from other countries against whom she will compete.

In the arena of Special Olympics, the Harrisburg resident has her priorities just right. Special Olympics is not about competitive results but about the effort its competitors put forth.

Bass will go to the Special Olympics World Summer Games June 25-July 4 in Athens, Greece. She is as much interested in the full experience as she is about whether she will bring home any medals.

Anyway, Bass has already lost count of the medals she has won over the years. Winning a couple more would only make that number bigger.

Bass, 20, began competing in local Special Olympics events six years ago. She claims she "wasn't really that good in basketball," even though teams she played on a few years ago finished first and second in state competition.

Track and field in the spring and summer and soccer in the fall are Bass' sports of choice. In Greece, she will compete in the shot put, the 100-meter dash and the 400-meter relay.

Bass has competed on a big stage before. She played on a five-on-five soccer team of Cabarrus County players that competed in the first Special Olympics USA National Games in Ames, Iowa, in 2006.

Bass' best memories of that big occasion are "being able to go to a different state and meet different people." She also remembers injuring her knee and having to sit out the tournament's final two games. The team finished third in the six-team tourney.

Just like the Olympics, Special Olympics World Games take place every four years. Winter and summer games alternate every two years. The selection process for making this year's Team USA started at last year's state games for Bass.

She earned a gold medal in the shot put, which put her name into a national drawing. Her coach and father, Steve Bass, received notice of her selection last summer.

"She's good and has been lucky," said Steve Bass. "But she does work at it."

Bass' training regimen is fairly simple. She says she practices throwing the shot in her back yard a couple of times a week and jogs around her neighborhood "when I have the time."

In March, she attended the Team USA training camp in San Diego, where all the athletes from around the county gathered to meet their coaches and practice their skills. Bass' coach is from Oregon and is one of the track-and-field team's assistants.

"I learned you should stretch before you throw," Bass says. "You'll throw a lot farther. I learned to not push yourself (in a running race) until you're halfway through. You don't want to use all your energy."

The strategies may have worked as Bass earned three gold medals at last weekend's Special Olympics state games. That's the most golds she ever brought home from a state meet.

Bass was honored at the state games by being selected to run the final leg of the torch run and light the cauldron.

The five athletes from North Carolina will leave from Raleigh-Durham International Airport June 16 and will meet the rest of Team USA (317 athletes in all) in Baltimore before flying to Rhodes, one of Greece's host cities. From there, her traveling party will take a 12-hour cruise to Athens.

At the World Summer Games, 180 countries will be represented by about 7,000 athletes competing in 21 sports.

"I am very excited about representing the United States," Bass said.