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Farmington's VandenBosch takes bronze in Special Olympics World Games

Katie VandenBosch sends the ball over the net during play at the Special Olympics World Summer Games earlier this month in Athens, Greece. VandenBosch finished third in singles and fourth in doubles.

A little over a year ago, Katie VandenBosch played tennis for the first time.

Now, she owns an Olympics bronze medal.

VandenBosch, a Farmington High School graduate, was one of eight Minnesota athletes selected to participate for Team USA in the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, which began in late June in Athens, Greece. The former state qualifier for the Farmington/Lakeville/Burnsville Blazing Cats adapted soccer, hockey and softball teams came in third place in her division in the tennis singles event, competing against players from Great Britain, Germany and Austria. She also came in fourth place with Team USA teammate Adam Snodgrass from Special Olympics Arizona in the tennis mixed doubles event.

"It was fun," said VandenBosch, who considers her serving and forehand to be her biggest strengths on the court. She said the competition she faced was "about the same" as what she faced when she competed in the state tournament last June.

VandenBosch originally planned to sign up for volleyball, but the state tournament didn't have it. She signed up for tennis instead and, after just a few weeks of practice, finished in third place. She then filled out an application and went through an inverview process before being selected for Team USA.

In all, VandenBosch spent 2 1/2 weeks overseas. She spent the first five days on the Island of Rhodes training with Team USA before taking a ferry to Athens. She spent her time away from the Olympics Tennis Center sightseeing around Athens, swimming at the beach, and attending dances and making friends with athletes from the other competing countries.

"My favorite part was seeing all the different cultures and meeting all the different people," said VandenBosch, who made the trip with her parents, Stefan and Terrie VandenBosch of Farmington, and her grandmother.

VandenBosch plans to continue to her regular practices and play a lot of tennis with her mom in preparation for another chance at competing for Team USA at the next World Summer Games in 2015. In the meantime, she plans to continue serving as an assistant coach for the Blazing Cats.

When VandenBosch was born, doctors told her parents she was perfect. But a short time later she started having petit mal seizures. Doctors told her parents not to worry, but when she was 2 she suffered a grand mal seizure.

Doctors discovered then she had a congenital birth defect, and that the cells in part of her brain did not migrate as she developed during pregnancy.