Michael and Nicholas Disanti are graduating from in just a couple of weeks. As though this event alone were not enough to send their mom, Kathy into full organization and planning mode, their graduation is punctuated by another big event for the family. Their 25 year old sister, Samantha, has qualified for and was invited to the Special Olympics World Games.
Less than a month after the boys walk across the stage to collect their diplomas, the entire Disanti family will board a plane to Greece.
“We have been walking around like we won the lottery,”Kathy Disanti said. “When we put Samantha in Special Olympics at 8 years old we never imagined this would happen.”
Over the years Samantha has been involved in soccer, basketball, floor hockey, and swimming. But it was kayaking that proved to be her strongest sport.
“It is amazing really,” Disanti said, “The first time we got her into a kayak, she was not happy at all. She kept telling us she was going to drown. She didn’t want to do it. But once she calmed down and gave it a try she really caught on and loved it.”
The Disantis have bought a kayak for Samantha so that she can practice during the week as well as during the group practices held with the Anne Arundel Special Olympics Kayaking team each week during the season. At the end of last summer all of her practice and hard work paid off as Samantha won two gold medals at the state competition.
To earn a spot in the World Games an athlete must first win a Gold medal in their sport. Samantha earned two, one in the 200 meter laned course and the other in the 500 meter open course. She will compete in both events in Greece in July.
“The World Games were so far off our radar, we didn’t even know how it worked,” Disanti said. “I couldn’t believe it when Frank called and told me.”
Samantha’s father Frank has coached Samantha since she first joined Special Olympics and was not completely surprised about the invitation.
“She is really competitive,” he said. “She’s a good sport when she loses and shakes her opponents hand after a loss, but she does everything she can to win a race.”
While Frank said this Samantha nodded her head emphatically, “I don’t like to lose. I like to win.”
Being invited to the World Games is a huge honor, but for Samantha it goes even further. This is the first year kayaking has been included in the games and only four kayakers from the United States will be attending the games - two young men from Texas, one young man from the Eastern Shore and Samantha.
This makes Samantha the first and only US woman to ever compete in kayaking at the games as well as the only Anne Arundel Special Olympics athlete heading to the games this year.
As might be expected from an athlete as well rounded as Samantha, she looks as this trip to Greece as more than an opportunity to compete in her sport. She is looking forward to meeting other athletes from all over the world and of course, trying new food.
The family agrees that this trip is a great opportunity. They are looking forward to watching their daughter compete and gain an experience they never imagined she would have the opportunity to do but they are also looking forward to the family time this trip will allow them before their sons go off to college.