After getting disqualified in his first race of the event, he posted the fastest 50-meter backstroke time.
FEDERAL WAY — It is often said in sports it’s not how you start but how you finish.
And after a very tough start to the Special Olympics USA Games for swimmer Andrue Lambes of Lakewood when he was disqualified in his first event, it could not have ended any better for him Friday at the King County Aquatic Center.
Competing in the top male division in the 50-meter backstroke, he easily won the gold medal in a time of 34.85 seconds, two seconds better than his previous best, and about 6½ seconds faster than Team Washington teammate Darren Allen.
“I just tried to kick my hardest,” said Lambes, 16. “I couldn’t see my hand above my face because there was so much water splashing. I actually wanted to do a 32 (second) time, but I will settle for a 34.”
And when he was done, and it was clear he had easily won?
“I was really excited; it was probably the best thing after my first race,” he said.
That first race was over for Lambes before it even started. Swimming Tuesday in the 50-meter butterfly, he was disqualified for starting too early.
“He handled that so well, and he had such a great attitude,” said Team Washington swim coach Amy Mohler. “He was just stellar in how he reacted and I was very proud of him.”
Lambes took a pragmatic view of his disqualification.
“I just told myself that it’s really OK because at some point everyone DQs, and it’s really not something to beat yourself up about and I had three more races,” he said.
In his next race, the 100 freestyle on Wednesday, he finished fourth, just missing out on a bronze in the highest of 10 divisions.
There was no doubt Friday, as he quickly took the lead and there was never any question who would win.
Lambes said getting disqualified in the 50 butterfly might actually have helped him.
“It probably gave me more of a goal to work toward and it made me push harder,” he said.
Lambes, who will be a junior at Lakes High School, has what he called a mild level of autism. He competed in swimming and water polo for his high school, “almost making it to districts” in swimming.
He said he loves competing in the Special Olympics and the camaraderie that it provides.
Special Olympics makes me feel like I am part of a family,” Lambes said. “They really understand my disability and they really help me understand what it’s all about.”
Lambes said his favorite part of Special Olympics is “making new friends and competing against people with the same type of problems.”
Lambes dreamed of taking home a second medal Friday as he was the anchor leg on Team Washington 400 relay team in the final race of the five-day event.
By the time Lambes hit the water, his team’s fate was sealed. Despite swimming a great anchor leg, he was too far behind to catch any of the top three teams. Still, it was a fantastic final day.
“It would be awesome to win two medals in one day,” he said before the relay.
“But even if we do place as a ribbon (outside the top three), I am still going to be proud of my team.”
It’s just the attitude you would expect from someone who overcame disappointment to win gold.