November 08, 2016 | SOI General: Headquarters

Remembering Olivia Quigley

By Kate McKenna

Olivia with her parents, Judy and Dan, at the 2015 World Summer Games in Los Angeles, Calif., USA

We remember Olivia Quigley as a young woman who made every moment count.

An athlete with autism, she proved herself every day: competing on her Wisconsin high school's track-and-field and cross-country teams, earning a brown belt in taekwondo, and working full time. After graduating, she became a dedicated staffer at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. She also became a star Special Olympics athlete.

A few months before the 2015 World Summer Games, Olivia was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 23. She told doctors she would begin chemotherapy -- as long as it wouldn’t interfere with her World Games training and competition.

Olivia went on to win gold in both the 100-meter and 400-meter relay and silver in the 200-meter. Her story was widely covered by ESPN and other media. Olivia was later honored for her achievements as one of espnW’s IMPACT25, which recognizes influential women in sports.

After the LA2015 Games, she resumed treatment and the cancer went into remission. In February 2016, Olivia attended the formal IMPACT25 award ceremony in New York and received espnW's inaugural Inspiration Award. Olivia dedicated her award to women battling breast cancer. She also had a special message for people with intellectual disabilities: "Never let anybody say you can't. Believe in yourself, pursue your dreams and surround yourself with people who will help you get where you want to be."

Olivia was back on the track this summer, winning another gold medal in the 100-meter at the Wisconsin Special Olympics Summer Games.

Doctors then discovered that Olivia had a brain tumor. They removed the tumor, but the cancer continued to spread. Olivia, age 25, died Nov. 8, surrounded by her devoted family. The Special Olympics community mourns along with Olivia's parents, Judy and Dan, and sister, Isabelle.

"Olivia Quigley lived the Special Olympics oath 'Let me win. But if I cannot win let me brave in the attempt,' said Timothy Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics. "Her grit, tenacity and spirit showed us all that no matter the challenge we all have it within us to fight to the end with joy in our hearts."

About Kate McKenna: Editorial and Multimedia Director, Special Olympics

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