For one week, Orlando, Florida, hosted over 5,000 athletes that spanned across all 50 states and some from surrounding countries for the 2022 Special Olympic USA Games. Among those athletes was soon-to-be Waseca High School junior Jack Anderson, who brought an Olympic gold and silver medal back home to Waseca.

The process for Anderson and his family to make the journey out to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort started back in 2019, when Anderson won a gold medal in a 50-meter dash during the Special Olympic Minnesota Summer Games.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the qualifying process for the USA Games went back and referenced 2019 results and Anderson’s gold medal put him in a pool of over 300 athletes from Minnesota. After an interview process, Anderson was one of 145 Minnesota athletes selected to compete in Orlando.

“He was looking forward to it for months,” said mother Julie Anderson. “So soon as he got selected, he was very excited.”

Jack Anderson

Waseca native Jack Anderson was among over 5,000 total athletes and was one of 145 Minnesota athletes to compete in the 2022 Special Olympic USA Games in Orlando, Florida. (Stephen McDaniel/southernminn.com)

Of all the track events that Jack competed in, it wasn’t difficult to select which one was his favorite to compete in. With a gold medal at the forefront of his medals, the 400-meter walk stood out as the favorite.

Anderson competed in the preliminary round of the 400m walk and finished with a time of three minutes, 33.120 seconds, which set himself up for a finals appearance. In his portion of the finals, he finished with the top time of 3:35.912 to win the gold.

But the gold medal in the 400m walk wasn’t all. Anderson ended up being under 0.4 seconds away from not one, but two gold medals.

During the preliminary round of the 50-meter race, Anderson finished with a time of 8.674 seconds, which was one of the top three fastest times of his heat and put him in the finals.

In the finals, Anderson finished the run even faster with a final time of 8.519 seconds, ended up finishing in second place and was awarded the silver medal. Zachary Wilkinson, an athlete from Texas, finished just slightly faster at 8.124 seconds.

But his smile at the award ceremony with the silver medal draped around his neck brought so much joy that Special Olympics Minnesota shared it with the supportive community, backing him and all of his fellow Minnesota teammates.

Anderson was understated in his description.

“It was kinda good. I got second and first,” he said.

Jack Anderson medal

Waseca native Jack Anderson (gold) shows excitement after winning the silver medal in the 50-meter dash at the 2022 Special Olympic USA Games in Orlando, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Julie Anderson)

Jack Anderson medal

The 2022 Special Olympic USA Games was a blast for all the athletes, especially getting to see all of their hard work pay off with ESPN even highlighting some of the competitions. But for Anderson, the fun also extended off the track.

On top of competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Anderson enjoyed a family night at Animal Kingdom and a trip to Magic Kingdom with his track and field teammates, where he found one of his other favorite parts of the trip to Orlando outside of winning his medals: all of the fun rides.

This was Anderson’s first time competing in the Special Olympic USA Games and he hopes to continue competing in the future. The 2026 Special Olympic USA Games would be even sweeter to compete in after Minnesota won the bid to host it back in early May.

Now Anderson is practicing and getting ready for the 2022 Special Olympics Minnesota Summer Games with other athletes in the surrounding area. He and his track and field teammates will be competing June 25 and 26 at Stillwater High School.

Reach sports reporter Stephen McDaniel at 507-444-2375. Follow him on Twitter @OPP__Sports. ©Copyright 2022 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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