Kuechle wins gold

Minnesota woman triumphs at Special Olympics USA Games


EDEN VALLEY, Minn. – On June 12, Sidney Kuechle returned to her family’s dairy farm with a new title, Olympic gold medalist, after competing in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games June 5-12 in Orlando, Florida.
She expressed how proud and grateful she was for the experience through a message she sent her sister, Shelby Borman, who was cheering for her with the crowd of fans.

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“I’m crying happy and sad tears,” said Sidney in the message. “I’m sad I can’t hug you right now but also happy because I am so proud of myself.”
The 20-year-old Olympian received gold medals in the 400-meter dash and the shot put. Additionally, she competed in the 100 and took fourth place.
Sidney is the daughter of Perry and Sarah Kuechle and has three siblings – Shelby, Sawyer and Porter. The family milks 250 cows and farms 900 acres of land with Perry’s sisters in Stearns County between Watkins and Eden Valley.
The Special Olympics USA Games united more than 5,500 athletes from across all 50 states and the Caribbean to compete in 19 sports.   
“I was kind of nervous a little bit, but mostly excited,” Sidney said.
In the preliminary rounds, Sidney placed middle of the pack in the three events she competed in. When it was time to complete in the final round for the 400, it was late morning and 90 degrees, and Sidney was ranked fourth in her heat.
With all odds against her, Sidney ran her best time ever with a finishing time of 1 minute and 28 seconds, shaving off 20 seconds from her time in the preliminaries.
“I told myself, ‘I’m going to get there,’” Sidney said. “I was just going with the flow. I was just going to keep going.”  
Finishing first, Sidney received her first gold.
“Every time she competed, she did better than the last time,” Perry said. “She never ceases to amaze me.”
In shot put, Sidney threw 6.09 meters to secure her second gold medal.
Sidney began her journey to the Special Olympics at Eden Valley-Watkins High School where she competed in Special Olympics track and bowling.
After graduating from high school in 2020, Sidney enrolled in the transition program at ROCORI and became more involved in other Special Olympics sports.
“The ROCORI transition program teaches life skills and gives (students with special needs) job opportunities and experience,” Sarah said. “But the other really cool thing is the door opened for many more Special Olympics sports.”
Through her time in the program, Sidney has participated in track and field, golf, bowling and basketball. She looks forward to starting bocce ball this summer.
To qualify for the Special Olympics games, an athlete must receive a gold medal in a regional or state level contest and then be nominated to compete at the international games.
Nancy Schwindel, a paraprofessional and coach at ROCORI, nominated Sidney after she qualified last year because of her notable hard work and dedication to the program.
“I knew that girl would shine and make small town America proud,” Schwindel said. “I have never seen an athlete prepare so hard. She had this coach in tears watching her.”
Sidney was interviewed and chosen to represent Minnesota in the Special Olympics USA Games.
In preparation for the games, Sidney and the 11 other track and field athletes from across Minnesota met weekly to practice as a team at Bethal University in St. Paul.
To help cheer her on, 13 members of Sidney’s family traveled down to watch her compete. They positioned themselves around the track to cheer Sidney on every step of the way.
“It was incredibly inspiring the whole time,” Sarah said. “Her smile standing on the podium and seeing all the athletes cheer each other on was truly amazing. The last-place person was just as excited as the first-place person to be up on that stage getting their award in front of a huge crowd of people. The sportsmanship and cheering for each other was incredible.”
After receiving two gold medals, Sidney returned home to her family’s farm where she often helps with chores after school and in the summer.
“Sidney is a hard worker and one of the best milkers on the farm,” Perry said. “Her hard work clearly paid off.”
Sidney credits the farm for helping her with her Olympic success. Picking rocks helped her gain strength for shot put, and waking up early helped create mental toughness that aided her in running, she said.
The Olympic games have inspired Sidney to try more sports within Special Olympics and hopefully compete in the 2026 Special Olympic USA Games in Minnesota.
Sidney is appreciative that this opportunity allowed her to be independent and make many friends. She encourages others to get more involved.
“If you want to do it, I would go and do it,” she said. “It never hurts to try.”


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