Ted Callahan of Lombard 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 that he touches for good luck when powerlifting. Callahan is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 184 pounds. He has short white hair and a mass of freckles. He also has Down syndrome.
Callahan 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 in Addison.
"I love all the NEDSRA programs because they are fun, but my favorite is powerlifting," Callahan said.
Callahan recently competed in the Special Olympics Summer Games at Illinois State University in Normal. The Summer Games is one of Illinois' premiere sports competitions with more than 4,000 athletes competing in six different sports.
Callahan qualified for the Summer Games by winning regional gold medals in the dead lift and bench press events. The Bull has competed in Special Olympics for more than 15 years, winning 43 Special Olympics medals in powerlifting: 26 gold, 13 silver and four bronze. Earlier in his career, he was twice nominated for the U.S. Olympic Powerlifting Team.
Callahan traveled to the games with his mother, Peggy, but his current coach and training partner, NEDSRA staff member Carrie Henry, was unable to make the trip.
"I missed Carrie," Callahan said.
In Henry's place, Ryan Fleck, from sister agency Fox Valley Special Recreation Association, filled in to help coach Callahan. Fleck also happened to be coaching Callahan'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, Callahan and Riddle. Both lifters were successful in their first two press attempts, setting up a final press at 240 pounds.
Riddle missed his press; Callahan locked his press cleanly and won another gold medal.
Callahan also took home a silver medal in dead lift and another gold medal in the 2-event combo, which combines the highest weight in bench press and dead lift. Riddle won a gold medal in the 3-event combo. Callahan 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 Callahan hanging in her office.
"I have known Ted for more than 20 years. I have watched him grow up and have witnessed firsthand the positive impact that NEDSRA programs have had on his social, physical and emotional development," she said. "Ted always has a smile on his face, which brings a smile to my face."