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Despite Struggling With Down Syndrome, U.S. Special Olympics Runner, Who Experienced Historic Moment, Gets Perfect Cheer From Fans: “Tears of Joy”

Published 11/07/2023, 11:13 AM EST

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Obstacles and difficulties are part of life, and great athletes know how to take them in their stride. Athletes with the winner’s attitude can triumph over all sorts of obstacles, even those of the physical kind. Undoubtedly, it requires immense determination and hard work to make it on the big stage, but for these iconic sports stars, it comes second to nature. Now, a runner with Down syndrome has proven that no obstacle is too big to overcome.

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The New York City Marathon took place on Sunday, November 5, and the Big Apple became the site of unfathomable track and field glory. For Kayleigh Williamson, it was the perfect opportunity to cement her last year’s record. In 2022, she became the first-ever marathon runner with Down syndrome. 2023 brought a new goal for her, and after Sunday, it is apparent that her chronicle is still being written.

Kayleigh Williamson shines at NYC Marathon


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The native of Austin participated in the Austin Marathon in 2022 and became the first-ever runner with Down syndrome to finish the race. In 2023, Kayleigh Williamson traveled to New York City to run the 26.2-mile course in the TCS New York City Marathon. After the race, the organizers posted a video of the remarkable runner on Instagram. The video showed her running past the finish line with tears running down her cheeks and into the arms of another woman. Yesterday, Special Olympics paid respect to her talent by sharing the video on their Facebook page with the caption, “Many congratulations to Kayleigh Williamson on completing the TCS New York City Marathon, one of the first women with Down syndrome to complete the feat!”.

The initial video from the marathon organizers went viral on Instagram and received more than 400,000 likes. The video on Facebook has received a similar reaction from fans who have bestowed upon Kayleigh Williamson their love and support. Their sentiments for the runner were reflected in their comments, which marked a significant milestone in her life.


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Fans send their love for Kayleigh Williamson


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The City of Austin celebrates February 20 as “Kayleigh Williamson Day”. This was in honor of her breathtaking run at the Austin Marathon. Now, new praises have been bequeathed upon her after the successful New York campaign. Social media users flooded the comment section on her video with both love and adoration for her. One fan applauded her performance and was moved by it, saying, “Tears of joy!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Well done Kayleigh!”. One fan was beaming with pride and asked Williamson to feel the same way, writing, “Congratulations Kayleigh!! What an accomplishment!! You have so much to be proud of!!”. The next fan regretted missing her in NYC, remarking, “I’m here in NYC. I wish I would’ve known to be there to cheer her on! Way to go! This is incredible!”.

Who Was the Last Person to Finish New York City Marathon? Rankings, Special Moments, and Others Discussed

Another fan who had the luck to watch her run the course also congratulated her, stating, “I saw her on the Queensboro Bridge during the run and she was doing amazing! Way to go!! Congratulations!!!”. One fan reflected on the hard work it took for Williamson to achieve that feat, saying, “Fantastic!   You must have worked so so hard in training!   And boy did it pay off!   Thanks for being an inspiration!!”. Lastly, another fan pointed out the memorable moments from the race and expressed her astonishment, stating, “So proud of you and in awe of you Kayleigh! What an amazing accomplishment and memory. keep up the amazing work!”


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Over the years, Kayleigh Williamson has participated in more than 20 half-marathons. After her success at both the Austin and New York City Marathons, she has found a new source of motivation. Her stack of certificates is still growing as she is getting ready for more personal achievements.

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Written by:

Anchal Ahuja


One take at a time

Anchal Ahuja is a US sports author for Essentially Sports. Her passion for storytelling and creating insights led her to delve into sports journalism. As an ardent follower of swimming, she idolizes the Baltimore Bullet Michael Phelps and draws inspiration from her famous quote, “The more you dream, the more you achieve.
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