After years of training and competing for this athletic moment to become real – the 15-hour flight to Berlin, Germany was the last of the waiting they had to do.
“It was such an honor to be even asked, chosen,” Becky Brennan, Unified Partner, said. “It was kind of surreal at first, you know, and it was so far in the future, it was at least a year away.”
All that preceded the moment mother and daughter, Becky and Abby Brennan from Sioux Falls, competed at Special Olympics World Games in Berlin June 16-25.
“As it got closer, we got to go to training in Texas,” said Becky. “I think we once got there and met the other two bocce players from Rhode Island, and we met our coach. I learned a ton about bocce. Ten times more than what I knew before going. Just listening to the athletes and all their “we’re going to crush them” and they are all so pumped up. I tried to imagine what Abby thought of all this and I just told her we’re going to play bocce.”
After landing in Germany, Abby and Becky traveled by bus for a few hours to their host town of Bremen. Once there, they, along with other athletes from around the world celebrated with a welcoming ceremony, sports activities, and a chance to go sightseeing.
“They (Bremen) had this sports club,” said Becky. “Their local bocce team would practice there. So, we got to practice there, and they had about 12 athletes there and four of them were also going to be in Germany. So, that was really great getting to know them there before we went to World Games.”
This mother-daughter duo was a force on the bocce court on the world stage. They finished 6th in doubles, while Abby was 6th in singles competition. Team USA finished in 4th place.
The duo shares an intimate communications relationship both on, and off, the court. Abby is deaf, so they rely on sign language. The two have other deaf relatives, so their family knew sign language even before Abby was born.
“I try not to be around when the coach is working with her because I think it’s better,” said Becky. “Once in a while, the coach for bocce would let me just sign things to her and I am like no. You come over here I’m leaving, and I would walk away. So, they could figure out how they could talk to each other, and they did and that’s what was nice. Abby needed to realize that he’s the coach, not Mom.”
Abby began participating in Special Olympics at 8 years old, which was a great fit since she loves everything to do with sports. Abby will watch anything from a golf game to UFC fighting on television. She participates in sports year-round for Special Olympics South Dakota, competing in athletics, volleyball, basketball, bowling, softball, and, of course, bocce.
Abby currently lives in a home with five other women. Through her day program, she participates in a variety of activities including bowling and going to the movies. She has three sisters and five nieces and nephews, whom she loves to spend time with.