Dickinson Athlete Blossoms Through Special Olympics - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

Dickinson Athlete Blossoms Through Special Olympics

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While U.S. Olympic athletes are taking home medals in Sochi today, some a little closer to home are practicing for special events of their own.

It hasn't always been easy for Katrina Ollila to solve the puzzles that come from having a hearing impairment.

"She used to be a very shy, little girl that didn't want to do anything. She would just sit in her room," says Ollila's father Todd Gonser.

But look around her room and you'll see there are a lot more pieces to this 16-year-old.

"Now, you can't get her to stop talking, you can't get her to stop playing, she loves everything. It's like you can't get that genie back in the bottle," says Todd.

"My husband and I always say she's blossomed," says Ollila's mother Jennifer Gonser.

Looking through old pictures, you can hardly believe that this little girl has now earned a special nickname on the basketball court.

"I gave her a nickname, animal, I think last year because she was out there playing like an animal," says Area 12 Special Olympics director Ken Stockert.

Animal for her ferocious play as a Special Olympic athlete.

"We tried regular sports, and gymnastics through the school system, and it was just too hard for her and she was getting distracted," says Jennifer

But now, there's not a sport Ollila won't try.

"She plays them all," says Jennifer.

And it's even become a family affair. Ollila's parents and three brothers all help out.

"I like basketball because I play sports myself, and my brothers are partners, so I like when they watch," says Ollila

"They always say kids spell love "T-I-M-E," and that's the biggest thing. We all spend time together," says Todd.

Now, Ollila passes her confidence on to her younger team members.

"She's almost like a big sister sometimes to the little ones of the team," says Jennifer. 

"My teammates are fun to play with, and I get along with them," says Ollila.

So, at home, at school and in sports, Ollila gives it her all.

"Being almost completely deaf, she doesn't let that hold her back," says Stockert.

And it's safe to say Special Olympics was that missing piece that helped her complete her puzzle.

Ollila will be competing with her team at the state Special Olympics basketball tournament in Minot on March 7 and 8. She and her family will be participating in Dickinson's Polar Plunge event benefiting Area 12 Special Olympics on March 29.

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