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"It's awesome to see these kids compete": Gymnasts in Wheeling prepare for Special Olympics Games in Orlando, Florida

Wheeling Gymnasts prepare for Special Olympic Games in Florida
Wheeling Gymnasts prepare for Special Olympic Games in Florida 02:45

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Around 100 Illinois athletes are preparing to head to Orlando, Florida to compete in the Special Olympics USA Games. Similar to the Olympics, the competition happens every four years.

Our Jackie Kostek caught up with three Northwest Suburban gymnasts in Wheeling.

Inside the American Academy of Gymnastics, Kyle Tuckey, Chris Kenter, and Mareena Mattison are putting the final touches on routines they'll soon perform on the national stage.

"It's really nerve-racking but it's exciting at the same time," Mattison said.

"I, in fact, put new moves in all my routines," Tuckey said.

New moves for a new level of competition. To earn a bid to the USA Games which brings together more than 5,500 athletes from across the country -- all three local gymnasts were selected by Illinois Special Olympics to represent the state. For the past year, they've trained two to three days a week for about three hours.

"I think they're going to bring home a lot of medals."

Glen Marks has been coaching Special Olympics athletes for 40 years -- working to, as he says, brings out the athlete's ability, not disability.

"It's awesome to see these kids compete. It just makes you feel good when they do well. They work so hard to show the world what they can do," Marks said.  

For all three of these Special Olympics athletes, the USA Games are the pinnacle of the sport in the U.S. It's something they've all worked years to achieve and the moment they were selected is one they all remember.

"We kind of surprised them here," Marks said.

"I was pretty, really surprised," Mattison said.

"It was incredible," Kenter said.  

"When you start gymnastics, your one goal is to compete at the Olympics, and to find out that I'm able to do that is just remarkable," Tuckey said.

While making the games is remarkable, these athletes have a clear track record of success -- with one big goal on the horizon.

"I'm a national and state champion for Illinois for a couple of years now but I just like to inspire people," Mattison said.

"The coaches here want us to succeed and achieve our goal which is to bring Illinois back a gold," Tuckey said.

The quest begins.

You heard that their goal is to bring home the gold. If they do, that will mean an automatic bid to the world games next June in Berlin, Germany.

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