Billy Habermann earned a pair of gold medals in singles and doubles tennis at the Special Olympics this week.
Habermann had his medal he won on Friday morning secure in his shorts pocket. Meanwhile, he sat with his friends and chatted, while watching other doubles teams compete.
When asked to show his gold medal, Habermann threw it around his neck with a smile on his face. The gold medal was important to Habermann, but it took a backseat to other things gained from the Special Olympics.
Through the Special Olympics, Habermann can cultivate friendships with the other competitors.
Habermann connected with his doubles partner, but he also gets to meet thousands of athletes from across the state — in 2017, the Special Olympics Iowa report tallied 14,961 participants.
"It's a good way to keep in touch with friends that they normally wouldn't see since they aren't together everyday," said Billy's father, Bill.
Iowa has been Habermann's main location for competition, but he said that he plans to branch out by attending the National Special Olympics in Seattle in July.
Habermann said he'll stick to the tennis courts in Seattle.
Special Olympics provides an opportunity for its athletes to not only branch out geographically, but also in the sports in which they participate.
Habermann said that tennis is his favorite sport, but he's dipped his toes in other events as well.
"Tennis, softball, basketball, bowling, golf [and] track," Habermann said when he listed off the different events he's done.
Habermann said he doesn't know when he'll stop competing, but his father said he doesn't think Billy has any plans to stop soon.
The foundation of Habermann's athletic experiences has been his family. Habermann — a Sioux City, Iowa native — had his mother and father, Bill and Cathy Habermann, in attendance in Ames.
1 of 22
Iowa Special Olympic Athletes warm up before the start of the swimming portion of the summer games in Beyer Hall May 18.
The Habermann family bonds throughout the Special Olympics, and Bill coaches other members of the Sioux City Knights.
"Three years of tennis, but other sports [I've coached] six or seven years," Bill Habermann said. "I got started because [of] my son, Billy. It's just something I love to do, it's honestly the most rewarding thing I do."
Billy has a platform to grow as a person through new relationships, new locations and new sports. The Habermann family has a platform to grow as a family, but while Billy is building new friendships, so are the Habermanns.
"It's a great community of families, too," Cathy Habermann said. "We have so many family friends that our family is friends with their family, because our children/adults compete and have competed for years, so it's just an extension of our family."