Darien resident Annie Brautigum, 41, has participated in the Special Olympics almost as long as she's been alive. Throughout the woman's 33-year career as an athlete, she has received many medals and participated in just about every sport.
In swimming, she's received gold in freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke. She's also participated in bowling, tennis, horseback riding, track and field and skiing. While not all of the sports have been done for the Olympics, most of them started out that way.
"She did everything, but they got so many people, they told her to concentrate on one winner and one summer sport," said her father, Karl Brautigum, who lives in Norwalk. "It got to the point where it was like, `No, you can't go sailing. You can't go golfing. Mom and dad have to sleep sometime.'"
Annie stuck with skiing, but switched from swimming to tennis as her spring sport. This past summer, she participated in tennis and brought home the President's Award for Athleticism -- beautiful flowers in an engraved vase.
"I've played tennis for a long time," Annie said. She grinned as she enthusiastically proclaimed that winning the award felt "great!"
"I was excited," said Annie, who resides in a group home in Darien run by STAR.
Karl said he and Lassie Brautigum, Annie's mother, were excited, too.
"I think they figured that Annie was in the Special Olympics for so long, they decided that maybe they should honor an athlete who was really dedicated and had been in a lot of different sports," Lassie said.
In 1989, Annie tried out for the Connecticut team for the International World Games and ended up being one of two females on the team.
She competed in Lake Tahoe and received a silver medal and a fourth place in cross country skiing.
"She really is coordinated," Lassie said.
But winning the silver medal isn't what Annie remembers about Lake Tahoe.
"That's where I met Patrick Swayze," Annie said.
Lassie said that's all she talked about for the rest of the trip. Annie is now a successful downhill skier and has since stopped cross country.
Annie used to ride for Pegasus at Ox Ridge, and in 2001 she was awarded Rider of the Year for the Pegasus troops from Fairfield County.
"That was quite an award," Karl said.
Today, Annie is a member of the Darien Lions downhill skiing team.
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