Local athletes Cat Foreman, J.R. Lobinsky take home gold at Special Olympics

ST. AUGUSTINE — St. Johns County Special Olympics powerlifting coach Marvin Wheeler vividly remembers what one of the ESPN commentators said when he saw local lifter Cat Foreman hoist 281 pounds over her head.

“‘Pound-for-pound, that could be one of the best lifts we’ve seen so far in these Special Olympics,’” recalled Wheeler, who has coached Foreman for three years now. “And I was crying.”

Foreman would go on to win three gold medals at the 2022 U.S. Special Olympics, etching herself into record books and the hearts and minds of those who witnessed her marvelous performance.

She and pentathlon gold medalist J.R. Lobinsky shined on their sports’ biggest stage by not just showing up but winning.

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Local athletes Cat Foreman and J.R. Lobinsky competed at the 2022 Special Olympics.
Local athletes Cat Foreman and J.R. Lobinsky competed at the 2022 Special Olympics.

The multi-talented J.R.

J.R. Lobinsky and his father/coach Jim, found out last year that J.R. qualified for the 2022 Special Olympics.

They had a full year to train for his big opportunity. When not working at Publix, Lobinsky does track and field in the spring, then moves to swimming in the fall and basketball in the winter.

“It’s a lot more fun to do multiple sports because you want to try to stay fit as much as possible,” J.R. said. “It’s really about your dedication and progression. That’s what helped me become a better athlete.”

Participating in basketball and swimming conditioned him for the Olympics. He would need it as a pentathlete, an athlete who participates in five events: the 100 meter, 800 meter, shot put, long jump and high jump.

Local penathlete J.R. Lobinsky won a gold medal at the 2022 Special Olympics.
Local penathlete J.R. Lobinsky won a gold medal at the 2022 Special Olympics.

J.R., who has Autism, said he was excited and humbled to win a gold medal on his first trip to the USA games. He has local accolades but it was “surreal” to win at the Olympics, he added.

The greatest reward, though, has been the friends he has met and the fun he has from competing, J.R. said.

J.R. has also become more of a leader since he began competing in track and field in 2008. He helps Jim run practices and assists other athletes with warm-ups. He likes being a mentor for new athletes. J.R joined the Athletic Leadership Program.

The All-American’s helpful nature comes from his community-oriented parents, Jim and Kathy, who have significantly impacted St. Johns County through their volunteerism.

Jim and Kathy, who are both retired, have volunteered 20 or more hours a week helping several organizations in St. Johns County, including the EA Community Food Bank, St. Johns Cares and Hugs Across the County to name a few.

Seeing his parents give back consistently to their community inspires J.R to do the same athletically.

“It all blends into the Special Olympics,” said Jim of the family’s volunteerism.  “Being able to participate and help other athletes do their best.”

J.R.’s best is yet to come. He plans to keep training to return to the Olympics and win more medals.

The mighty Cat

Cat Foreman’s mother, Cary, was just as shocked has the ESPN commentator and Wheeler to see Cat deadlift 281 pounds. She and her husband, John, had only seen her lift 271 pounds.

“I thought, ‘Oh my, they're putting too much on her,’” Cary recalled. “She lifted it, and me, her dad and grandparents just about fell out of our chairs.”

Those three years of training with Wheeler paid off in the form of three gold medals. Cat began lifting in 2019 but was halted after six months because COVID took over the world. She began training again at the end of 2021.

“It was the accumulation of a lot of work,” said Wheeler of the big victories.

Lifter Cat Foreman won three gold medals at the 2022 Special Olympics.
Lifter Cat Foreman won three gold medals at the 2022 Special Olympics.

It didn’t take Wheeler long to realize that Cat was a competitor who did all the things necessary to to get ahead, Wheeler added.

Wheeler and Cat trained twice a week in the AMP Powerlifting Gym and Cat managed her diet and exercise well.

Competing makes Cat happier and more of a well-rounded person, Cary said. She feels a sense of accomplishment and responsibility, she added, and loves competing with other neurotypical athletes. When she lifts, she shifts from someone with numerous intellectual disabilities to just an athlete.

The Foremans and Wheeler have enjoyed watching Cat become more gregarious and confident. They are excited to see how sports will continue to transform the St. Johns County standout.

“We never in a million years would’ve thought she would’ve walked away with three gold medals,” Cary said proudly. “We’re going to keep going with it and see how far it could take her.”

This article originally appeared on St. Augustine Record: Special Olympics: St. Augustine's Cat Foreman, J.R Lobinsky win gold medals