TIPP CITY, Ohio (WDTN) — A girl from Miami County is putting her talent on display for the entire state to see and showing that strength is about more than how much you can lift.
Jessica Hoffmann beams with pride when she talks about her daughter, Justine.
“There’s still somewhat of a stigma that they can’t do this,” Jessica said. “She and her crew are proving them all wrong. They can do just as many tough things as the rest of us.”
Justine is turning 16 soon and will be a sophomore next year at Tipp City High School.
Though she has Down Syndrome, it doesn’t stop her from excelling at the sports she loves.
“I wanted her to push herself and break that mold of she can’t,” Jessica said. “It’s more of what she can. And I wanted her to be as healthy as possible.”
Justine started playing soccer when she was just three years old, she’s been to the state Special Olympics for swimming and just this past weekend, competed at the State Summer Games for powerlifting.
“You’re so proud of them because they’ve got so many people telling them they can’t do it, and here they are,” said coach Mark Higgins.
She trains with Coach Mark Higgins at Complete Fitness in Tipp City who runs a Special Olympics training program out of his gym. It’s something he always wanted to do, because of kids like Justine.
“No matter how bad her day is– your day is– she gets in there behind that bar and she’s just smiling,” Higgins said. “She’s ready to lift it.”
Every success there is a major victory and every PR is a win. But it’s not all about the numbers.
“Over half the parents that have kids in our program say, ‘Well I don’t think my kids going to do very well at it,'” Mark said. “It’s not about doing well. It’s about getting out there and just doing it. The wellness is going to come.”
Along with other things, like confidence. Jessica says Justine used to be reserved and a little shy.
“Now she’s like, ‘Peace out, Mom. I’m going to hang with the fellas,'” Jessica said. “She’s flexing her arms and showing off and just loving all the attention.”
And though she’s nonverbal, there’s also a bond that is shared by everyone who competes.
“It makes me teary eyed just thinking about it because they’re patting each other on the back,” Jessica said. “Even though they’re competing against each other they’re all supporting each other.”
Jessica also has some advice to offer other parents when it comes to encouraging their own kids, no matter what challenges they may be facing:
“I see some kids just give up on themselves and they don’t have that confidence,” Jessica said. “I think as parents and friends and family… just keep pushing them. Don’t let them give up. Help them build that confidence and let them know that they’re just as capable as the rest of us and they’ll do just as many great things.”