Palmerton Powerlifter Competing in Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi

Delina Rodrigues puts in the work.

"I love to be at the gym, be motivated and be a more healthier and athletic person," Rodrigues said.

She's not just athletic. She's an athlete, something that means more to this family than most.

"When Delina was young, people told us that she probably wouldn't be capable of doing much, especially physically," Delina's mother, Christine recalled.

Rodrigues is intellectually disabled -- diagnosed with ID as a child -- but thanks to Special Olympics Carbon County, the 24-year-old quickly started to prove everybody wrong. After excelling in track, she took up powerlifting, where she earned a couple dozen medals in just three years.

"Delina's the type of athlete, the harder you push her, the more she goes," Delina's volunteer powerlifting coach Lisa Cooper said. "You think she's going to get 200 this week and she'll lift 210. Delina, she's constantly smiling. She always has something funny to stay."

That attitude helps a 150 pound woman deadlift 220. This lift in 2017 helped Rodrigues qualify for Special Olympics USA. She's one of eight athletes on the national team, competing in the Special Olympics World Games next month.

"I heard my name, like, Delina Rodrigues from Carbon County. I was, like, what? What?" Delina Rodrigues remembers, after her name was selected among qualifying athletes.

"She wanted to go," Christine added. "She made up her mind and she did it. She amazes me every day."

Rodrigues trains at Dedicated Fitness in Palmerton. She qualified at Special Olympics Pennsylvania at Villanova, but the World Games are a long ways from Carbon County. They're half way across the globe in the United Arab Emirates."

"It's a small, little country, but it's like the richest country ever," Delina said of the U.A.E. "My family and friends reaction was, like, happy and proud of me, going to Abu Dhabi and World Games and I'm pretty proud of myself."

Pride isn't a strong enough word for the rest of the Rodrigues family. They credit Delina -- her journey, her attitude and her smile -- for bringing their family together.

"Delina is the reason I am who I am today," Delina's younger brother, Darris Rodrigues said. "I can thank all of my empathy to her. She really has truly made me a better person."

The Special Olympic World Games are March 14-21 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. There is is a send off celebration for Rodrigues at L.B. Morris Elementary School in Jim Thorpe on March 2, following track and field training at 3:00 PM.

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