New York powerlifter brings home gold from Special Olympics

Angel Athenas knows what being a champion is like. The 34-year-old athlete, who has autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder, just brought home a quartet of gold medals at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games, winning her weight division in female powerlifting.

"My dad was over there and said, 'Angel, you got gold!'" she said. "I said, 'Really?' My mom said, 'Angel, you got gold.' I said, 'Really, I got gold? Holy!"

She is proof that hard work pays off and has shown that strength and spirit can help overcome obstacles.

Angel was abandoned at birth by a drug-addicted mother and spent the first eight years of her life in the foster system.

The 164-pound champ has only been powerlifting for the past four years but she has already beaten the New York State female powerlifting record, won her weight class at the USA Special Olympics last year in Seattle, and was one of five other athletes from New York to most recently compete in the world games in Abu Dhabi where she deadlifted 254 pounds.

John Ponce, an athletic trainer and a residential supervisor, works with Angel five days a week for two to three hours each day.

"She was nervous, untrusting, uncertain," Ponce said. "Now she's ambitious, hardworking and happy."

Talk about goals: Her trainer said if Angel keeps it up, she'll be lifting 400 pounds by the end of summer.