Devon Adelman had to compete barefoot after her water shoes were stolen out of the family car. But that didn't stop her from dominating at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games

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In the weeks before the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, Seattle local Devon Adelman said that while she wanted to win gold in stand-up paddle boarding, even if she didn’t come in first, she was just thrilled to have the opportunity to represent Washington and compete in the USA Games.

When the big day came, Adelman, whose event (Level 4, a maximum of 800 yards with turns) was one of the last races in Tuesday’s finals, got out to a quick start and never looked back.

She may have been okay had she not won gold, but as she hopped off her board and made her way back to shore, with Team Washington and others cheering her name, the reality of her victory set in.


INTERACTIVE VIDEO | Go out on the water with Devon Adelman »


She raised her arms in the air, paddle in hand. She had done it. She had won gold.

“It was so amazing. I just loved it. I love being out in the water,” said Adelman, who is also an ambassador for the USA Games. “I didn’t even think about getting gold out there until now.”

Adelman didn’t have the smoothest lead-up to her race. When she was at the Future of Inclusion Forum Monday evening, her family’s car was broken into, and her water shoes, work ID, backpack, and one of her bathing suits were stolen, her coach, Brenda Devine, said.

Paddle boarders generally compete with footwear, so Adelman said she was upset at first and had been worried about not having her shoes for the race.

That didn’t stop her from doing  — rather, dominating — the race with bare feet.  For Adelman, no shoes, no problem.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Adelman said about how she felt when racing. “It felt priceless and breathtaking.”

“Oh my gosh,” Adelman said, partly still in disbelief that she had won, and beginning to get choked up with emotion. “This is all a dream.”

Attendance through first two days

The star-studded Special Olympics USA Games opening ceremony on July 1 at Husky Stadium drew as estimated 39,000 people. Event organizers estimate that attendance from all competition venues Monday totaled about 13,200.