Gahanna Lincoln High School senior Jessica Komjati swam her way to four medals during the National Special Olympics in Lincoln, Neb., last month.

Gahanna Lincoln High School senior Jessica Komjati swam her way to four medals during the National Special Olympics in Lincoln, Neb., last month.

Komjati, 18, is the first and only Special Olympian to compete at nationals from the Gahanna Special Olympics (GSO), said Jackie Komjati, Jessica's mother and GSO local coordinator.

"We've had gold-medal winners at state," she said. "Beyond that, it's a lottery system. She's the first and only one who has been chosen for nationals, and we hope to have more in the future."

During the July 18-23 competition, Jessica swam her personal best times in both the preliminaries and finals and medaled in all four of her events.

She won gold in the 25-yard freestyle, silver in the 50-yard freestyle, bronze in the 50-yard backstroke and gold as a member of the 200-yard freestyle relay team.

"I enjoyed making some new friends and being with my team from Team Ohio," she told ThisWeek. "Swimming has been my favorite sport, and I like winning medals."

Jackie Komjati said she was most proud that her daughter swam her personal best.

"It was a very exciting week, and we were proud of Jessica and her accomplishment," she said.

The entire family was on hand to share in her success, including father Gregg, brother Nick, 16, and sister Megan, 12.

Jessica was one of 64 athletes from all over Ohio who participated in volleyball, tennis, basketball, track and field, golf, bowling, power lifting and aquatics.

She qualified for nationals by winning gold at the state's Special Olympics in December 2009 at Ohio State University.

The concept of Special Olympics began in the early 1960s, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The first national meet was held at Chicago's Soldier Field in 1968 for 1,000 athletes from the United States and Canada.

Shortly thereafter, Ohio began a Special Olympics program under the name of the Ohio Athletic Association. Special Olympics Ohio became incorporated in 1975.

Komjati said the GSO program started in 2004 and offers such sports as swimming, golf, basketball, bowling and track.

The program currently serves 50 to 60 individuals ranging in age from 8 to 35.

The GSO is part of Ohio Area Six, which includes Delaware, Fairfield, Fayette, Franklin, Licking, Madison, Pickaway and Union counties.

To be eligible for GSO, athletes must be at least 8 years old and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disability, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment or significant learning or vocational problems because of cognitive delay that require or have required special instruction.

For more information about the GSO, e-mail Komjati at coordinator@gahannaspecialolympics.com