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In high school sports, medals are coveted tokens of accomplishment and symbols of sweat and strength.
Some were given out at Tuesday night’s meet between Frisco’s Wakeland High School and Flower Mound High School, but one young athlete wears a medal given to him by a selfless champion.
Alex Chappell, 15, loves wrestling more than anything. With anticipation, he watches each takedown, waiting for his chance on the mat.
He competes for the Frisco Wakeland High School junior varsity team.
Chappell was diagnosed with severe autism at age 8, and has only competed in the Special Olympics – until last Friday.
That was when his very first meet took place, in a 16-team tournament at J.J. Pearce High School. Chappell got pinned, losing both matches.
“I asked him how he did, and he said he lost out 0-2, and he was really bummed,” said Chris North, a junior at Northwest High School. “He was just sitting there playing with some cups by himself.”
North and Chappell’s paths crossed at the tournament, when their teams were seated next to each other.
“We were standing in front of the brackets, and he asked me if I could help him find his name, so I told him where he would be and what he’d be coming up to,” said North.
Hours later, North had won his four matches and earned a silver medal. Then, he did something remarkable.
“I walked around the gym and I had to find his team, and I found him sitting by himself, and I put the medal around his neck and I told him, “I won this for you, buddy,” said North.
That medal has barely come off of Chappell since.
“I want to say thank you,” said Chappell. “I love it.”
Chappell’s mom, Sharon Segura, didn’t learn of the story behind the medal until she read an email from his coach Monday night. His words brought her to tears.
“He tries so hard to be accepted, and for this kid to see him as a person, and not for his disability, makes me so proud,” she said.
It may seem like a small gesture, but it changed Chappell’s life.
“He looked like a winner,” said North. “He looked like a really nice kid who deserved a medal, and he deserved to feel like he won.”
What’s even more impressive is that North only told one person about his gesture.
He asked a teammate what he thought of the idea before he did it, and the teammate said absolutely.
Not even North’s coach knew until the next day.
Both coaches and parents hope other kids will see North’s selflessness and pay it forward.