O’FALLON – Competing on a world stage might have been unthinkable just a few short years ago for an O’Fallon young woman who recently brought home several medals in gymnastics at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, Dubai.
Saneatha Trice, a student at the O’Fallon Township High School Transition House, said when she first took up gymnastics in eighth grade, she didn’t know if she would like it or not.
“I was kind of scared and nervous,” Trice said. “My teacher wanted to see if I would try it.”
Tara Edwards, Trice’s mother and director of Parent Teacher Organization for Exceptional Children (PTOEC), said when Trice was at her first gymnastics practice, she surprised many with her abilities on the vault.
“Coaches still talk about it today how she just walked in and gave them their first heart attack,” Edwards said.
Before gymnastics, Trice said she was nervous just talking to people. But with a little help from friends she calls her heroes, she has become a fearless competitor.
“They helped me,” Trice said.
Edwards said her daughter benefits more from just the athletic aspect of the PTOEC program. “Saneatha would never go up to somebody she didn’t know and just talk,” Edwards said. “Now, she talks to everybody.”
After realizing her natural abilities with gymnastics, Trice has taken an interest in other sports as well, such as bowling and basketball.
Among her crowning achievements in her sport of choice are five gold medals in vault, uneven bars, floor, beam and all around earned last summer in Special Olympics USA games in Seattle.
After that competition, she kept the momentum going by hard work, which later earned her a prestigious invitation to the Special Olympics World Games.
Trice said she was “surprised and shocked” to be competing in Dubai. Her nerves really set in, however, on the plane ride overlooking the ocean.
In Abu Dhabi, Trice said she enjoyed meeting other USA Special Olympians from all of the competing sports.
“All they wanted to do was support me and support Team USA,” Trice said.
Her favorite part of the trip, she said, was the food at “host town” and a theme park visit in the desert with other USA competitors.
The World Games took place from March 14 through March 21 and Trice spent three of those days competing.
Trice received gold in vault, bronze in uneven bars, floor and all around and fourth in balance beam. She said vault and floor are her favorite events to compete in with beams and bars being less favorite.
“I was just happy my family was there to support me,” Trice said. “I really like my mom coming and watching, I don’t want her to miss anything.”
Edwards said while Trice has always struggled with the beam, when she competed during preliminaries, it was the best she has ever done in her gymnastics career.
Trice said of her gymnastics coach Jennifer Hitt, “she’s the best coach ever. She’s helped me with a lot.”
Trice said after the conclusion of the World Games, she was ready to come back home to O’Fallon. She also said she may be done competing for awhile.
“I think there’s still a lot left to learn,” Edwards said. “She saw a lot of skill at those games that we don’t get to see here on a state level.”
Trice said Special Olympics has helped her with many different aspects of her life. She also said she would tell kids her age to never give up on their dreams and goals.
“I would tell anyone who is my age, anything you can do — just do it. It’s good for all the kids to know what I’m doing. Don’t give up and try to do the best you can with sports. Pick your favorite sport that you like and want to do.”
Trice described her Olympic medals as “heavy.” But her famous line that she so often uses — “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”