Simon Van Giesen wins bronze in international Special Olympics; welcome-home rally March 23

Simon Van Giesen wins bronze in the 50 meter backstroke on the final day of competition at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Courtesy Debi Van Giesen Simon Van Giesen wins bronze in the 50 meter backstroke on the final day of competition at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Courtesy Debi Van Giesen

Simon Van Giesen is coming home from the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi with a bronze medal in the 50 meter backstroke. Simon, who attends St. James Cathedral Parish, won his medal on March 20, the final day of competition.

Simon Van Giesen
Simon Van Giesen shows off his bronze medal, which he won in the 50 meter backstroke on the final day of competition of the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Courtesy Special Olympics Washington

The community is invited to a welcome-home rally for Simon and other local competitors at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Saturday, March 23. The Washington state delegation’s flight is expected to land about 1 p.m. The rally will be held in the baggage claim area for United Airlines.

Simon, 25, was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old and began swimming with Special Olympics and other teams about a decade ago. (Read his profile in the June 2018 issue of NORTHWEST CATHOLIC.)

This is Simon’s second bronze medal in a major competition. Last summer in Seattle, he medaled while swimming in his first national Special Olympics competition.

At the World Games, Simon competed in three swimming events: 50 backstroke, 100 freestyle and 100 freestyle relay. His parents, Shawn and Debi Van Giesen (who works for the Archdiocese of Seattle), were at the games to cheer him on.

“We’re so proud of him and everything he’s been able to accomplish,” his mother said before the games.

Also arriving with Simon on Saturday is the U.S. men’s Unified soccer team, made up of Washington state athletes with and without intellectual disabilities. The team beat India 5-0 for the bronze medal.