LIHUE — There was no mistaking the trickle of joyful tears that dripped from Chaunci Alohilani Cummings’ eye as she spied her grandmother, Leona Sa McDermott, when stepping through the doors of the baggage claim Monday afternoon at the Lihue Airport.
“She’s by herself,” Sa McDermott said. “When Special Olympics made her flight arrangements, her parents couldn’t go. They’re still in California and will come home later.”
Filled with excitement and awe at the experience of participating in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, Cummings returned home with medals in all of the events she participated in — a silver medal in the 100 meter dash, a bronze medal for being the anchor runner in the girls relay team, and a fifth place finish in the shot put.
“She called every day,” said Tamarine Carvalho, Cummings’ teacher at Kapaa High School and Special Olympics coach. “She’s perfect. She never complains, and always listens to her coaches.”
Carvalho said Chaunci’s parents, Ben and Dawn Cummings, called her the day before Chaunci was scheduled to run the 100 meter dash.
“They asked me to speak to her,” Carvalho said. “They wanted me to motivate her. I just told her ‘You gotta run, Chaunci. You just gotta run.’”
And Chaunci ran, stopping the clock at 23.14 seconds for the silver medal.
“I almost had first,” Cummings said, shyly. “But I slowed down.”
Cummings also picked up the bronze medal for being the anchor runner in the girls 4×100 relay race.
“This almost didn’t happen,” Carvalho said. “On the day of the qualifying meet, Chaunci had a seizure and they wouldn’t let her run. She called and was crying because she was upset at not being able to run. But they were able to use her previous times and get her seeded.”
Cummings said this was a good event because she had to catch several runners for her finish. She also made friends with one of the girls on the team from Tennessee.
Her final event was the shot put, where she threw it 5.43 meters for the fifth place.
Cummings was the sole Special Olympics athlete from Kauai, joining Isaiah Wong of West Hawaii and Ikaika Morita-Sunada of Oahu at the World Summer Games.
Wong finished the Games with a silver medal in weightlifting with a 180 kilogram squat and took the gold medal with a dead lift of 205 kg.
Morita-Sunada finished with a silver medal for swimming.
The Special Olympics World Summer Games, emphasizing the importance of inclusion, strives to creat a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people with intellectual abilities. Kapaa High School is an Inclusion school where Unified Partners are joined with athletes with intellectual abilities.
Chaunci, according to her mother, suffered a stroke when she was born and is being treated by Shriners Hospital for cerebral palsy.
But the adventure is not over for the Kapaa High School student, who will be honored and recognized Friday during the school’s welcome back assembly.
“You can rest until Friday,” Carvalho told the athlete. “But you need to come to school, Friday — and don’t forget to bring the medals.”
Saturday, Cummings leaves for Oahu to participate in a two-day Aukake Classic featuring soccer and bocce ball at the Waiau District Park.
Chaunci’s family said they would like to express their appreciation for the hard work and dedication of Special Olympics Area Director Jocelyn Barriga, coaches Carvalho, Keoni Leota, and Crissy Bader in Los Angeles, to give Chaunci an opportunity to deliver at the World Summer Games.