Most Inspired Athlete

Special Olympics Southern California, June 2013

Sharif Ali in his judogi (uniform) and in a 2004 match against today's UFC Champion, Ronda Rousey

Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) which were held June 8 & 9 at Cal State Long Beach is pleased to announce Sharif Ali as the 2013 Paul and Margaret Thorsen's Most Inspirational Athlete Award winner. Sharif has competed in aquatics and soccer for the Special Olympics San Gabriel Valley team since 2006. Most recently, he participated in aquatics at the Summer Games. At the Games, he won gold medals in the 25 Meter Freestyle and the 50 Meter Backstroke, and a bronze medal in the 50 Meter Freestyle.

Outside of SOSC, Sharif is a long-time member of Goltz Judo, one of the largest judo clubs in the nation. He has earned the rank of 1st degree black belt and is a life member of the United States Judo Association. Sharif is a hardworking athlete, like many of the swimmers on his team. He comes to practices and competes whole heartedly but believes there is more to being on a team than just swimming laps. Sharif's Coach, Ed Callahan, says that Sharif has the incredible gift of making his teammates feel supported and helping motivate them, which gives them the confidence to achieve success. "When Sharif first joined my team, his outgoing personality instantly shined through," said Callahan.

Sharif's leadership qualities showed on the field of play so Callahan gave him the opportunity to be a team captain. However, Sharif quickly became more than captain on his team. He was always there to lend a hand and guide his teammates so he was given the title Athlete/Coach. "Sharif is like a magnet. His teammates are always going to him for guidance and advice," said Callahan. "He has an incredible gift of being a people person. He can make you laugh, feel at ease, motivate you, and up lift your spirits. Sharif is one of the biggest assets to this team. He is the type of leader that every coach would love to have on their team and the San Gabriel Valley Stingrays are lucky to have him on theirs."

The Paul and Margaret Thorsen's Most Inspirational Athlete Award is presented to stand-out Special Olympics Southern California athletes who have overcome obstacles in their lives to attain success and inspire others through their actions. Recipients of the award are nominated by SOSC staff members and are chosen by Rafer Johnson, founder of Special Olympics Southern California and an Olympic Gold Medalist. The award is named after Rafer's mother-in-law and father-in-law, who were big supporters of Special Olympics.