Make Way for Michael the Hawk

By Janelle Guthrie

July 2, 2018

Michael Rudd Jr. is a young man of many talents and interests. This 18-year-old from Chicago is competing in the Special Olympics USA Games this week in Seattle in the 50m Breaststroke, the 50m Backstroke and the 100m Freestyle swimming events at the King County Aquatic Center.

Just a few weeks ago, he joined fellow swimmer, Maria Meyer in singing the National Anthem at the Illinois State Summer Games. He recently earned Eagle Scout from the Boy Scouts of America, and in his free time, Michael loves to write and draw comic books. He hopes to major in writing at Columbia University someday.

“I want to be a man who’s making history,” Michael shared as we spoke at the Aquatic Center in between heats.

He’s been swimming for about 10 years and joined Special Olympics at age 11. He’s competed in gymnastics, skiing and equestrian events as well; according to a recent story in the Chicago Tribune, he’s won gold in all of them!

When he wins an event, he likes to say, “Make way for Michael the Hawk!” His mom, Mary, says the phrase symbolizes his journey and his favorite bird. Even when he loses, Michael always remembers to share a heartfelt, “good game.”

He loves to find a celebrity doppelganger for the people he holds dear. One of his coaches has been deemed a “Katy Perry” look-alike, and his mom is likened to “Claire,” played by actress Julie Bowen, from Modern Family.

Throughout our interview, Michael gave his mom several big hugs. His love and respect were obvious, and the two together demonstrated amazing pride in Michael’s opportunity to represent his state at the USA Games in Seattle.

“He’s very honored,” his mom said.

Michael’s advice for fellow Special Olympics athletes?

“Don’t give up. Do your best. Enjoy yourself!”

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