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updated: 7/16/2013 7:51 PM

Ted Callahan, the Brahma Bull, won gold at Special Olympics Summer Games

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  • Ted "Brahma Bull" Callahan deadlifting and winning a silver medal in the Special Olympics Summer Games.

    Ted "Brahma Bull" Callahan deadlifting and winning a silver medal in the Special Olympics Summer Games.
    Bruce Flowers

Bruce Flowers

Ted Callahan: The Gentle Brahma Bull

Ted Callahan is called the "Brahma Bull" by his friends because he is strong like a bull but has a personality as gentle as a lamb. He also sports a bull tattoo on his shoulder which he touches for good luck when powerlifting. Ted is 5'4" and weighs 184 pounds. He has short white hair and a mass of freckles. He also has Downs Syndrome.

Ted is 37 years old and works as a Jewel courtesy clerk. When not working, he participates in many recreation programs offered by the Northeast Dupage Special Recreation Association (NEDSRA) in Addison. "I love all the NEDSRA programs because they are fun, but my favorite is powerlifting," says Ted.

Ted recently competed in the Special Olympics Summer Games held at Illinois State University in Normal, IL. The Summer Games is one of Illinois' premiere sports competition with more than 4,000 athletes competing in six different sports. He qualified for the Summer Games by winning regional gold medals in the deadlift and bench press events. The Bull has competed in Special Olympics for over 15 years, winning 43 Special Olympics medals in powerlifting: 26 gold, 13 silver, and 4 bronze. Earlier in his career, he was twice nominated for the US Olympic Powerlifting Team.

Ted traveled to the games with his mother, Peggy, but his current coach and training partner, Carrie Henry, was unable to make the trip. "I missed Carrie," said Ted. In Carrie's place, Ryan Fleck, from sister agency FVSRA, filled in to help coach Ted. Ryan also happened to be coaching Ted's closest competitor, Matt Riddle from FVSRA in Aurora.

Lifting is somewhat strategic in Special Olympics as each competitor submits beforehand the weights they plan to lift. Competitors do not know the weight of their opponents until it's their turn. If your weight is heavier and you complete the lift cleanly, you win. As the bench press competition unfolded, it came down to two competitors, the old Bull and Matt the 24 year old upstart. Both lifters were successful in their first two press attempts setting up a final press at 240 pounds. Matt missed his press; Ted locked his press cleanly and won yet another gold medal.

Ted also took home a silver medal in deadlift and another gold medal in the 2-event combo, which combines the highest weight in bench press and deadlift. Matt won a gold medal in the 3-event combo. Ted insists he will keep on competing "…as long as it is still fun".

His sunny personality is a delight to his friends at NEDSRA. Jeena Greenwalt, Executive Director of NEDSRA, has a photo of her and Ted hanging in her office. "I have known Ted for more than 20 years. I have watched him grow up, and have witnessed first-hand the positive impact that NEDSRA programs have had on his social, physical, and emotional development. Ted always has a smile on his face, which brings a smile to my face," commented Jeena.