Bar members bring triathlon to Special Olympics Florida
For some lawyers, giving back means sharing the thrill of swimming, cycling and running, for miles, under the relentless Florida sun.
So, in 2017, bankruptcy attorney turned legal headhunter Wynne McFarlin organized a Florida Special Olympics triathlon team.
“Special Olympics Florida has always had 27 of the 30 sanctioned sports,” she said. “And triathlon was a missing piece.”
McFarlin, the founder of Legal Talent, has been competing in triathlons for 10 years. The benefits far exceed physical fitness, she said.
“The social part of it is what keeps you involved,” she said. “Making friends, going through rough times together, setting a goal, meeting the challenge, and experiencing the excitement of doing that as a group, it’s worth it.”
When a friend and Special Olympics board member suggested she organize a triathlon team, McFarlin was all in.
Aided by other Florida Bar members who were willing to serve as trainers and volunteers, McFarlin said she started Florida’s first Special Olympics triathlon team with four athletes. Today, there are 19.
Other Bar members include U.S. District Judge Carlos Mendoza, Deerfield Beach attorney J. Michael Magee, Jr., an associate with Chartwell Law, and Orlando attorney Jamie Billotte Moses, a partner with Holland & Knight.
“There are quite a few attorneys that have selflessly devoted themselves to this wonderful endeavor,” Judge Mendoza said.
The Florida Special Olympics triathlon team was scheduled to compete in its final event of the year in Clermont on September 11.
The big test comes next year.
Eighteen members of team Florida (injury took a toll) will compete in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games June 5-12 in Orlando.
It’s no weekend track meet.
Held every four years, the event is expected to attract more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean, not to mention 20,000 volunteers and 125,000 spectators.
“All of our athletes and all of our partners are going to be physically staying for a week at Disney,” McFarlin said. “We attend all the games and watch when we’re not competing.”
Florida’s triathlon team will be packing plenty of star power.
It includes two-time ESPY Award winner Chris Nikic, who made global headlines when he became the first person with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman.
On November 7, 2020, in Panama City, Nikic completed a 2.4-mile open-water swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run, in 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds. The cutoff was 17 hours.
Nikic was guided by Dan Grieb, who along with Judge Mendoza and others, spent months training Nikic.
The Special Olympics triathlon event is called a “sprint” and is not as grueling as an Ironman. But it’s well beyond the ability of most weekend warriors.
According to the Special Olympics website, it involves swimming 440 yards, followed by cycling 10.8 miles and running a 5K.
After the Special Olympics USA Games, some athletes will go on to compete in the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, McFarlin said.
A perpetual motion machine, McFarlin says she somehow manages to find the time to devote to her career, training, and volunteering with Special Olympics.
“I just love this, and I love being busy, that’s how I find the time,” she said.