Corey Leonhard: “An Olympic World Champion Now Giving Something Back”

Corey Leonhard, 37 years old, loves sports of all kinds, loves NASCAR, loves the Columbus Wildcats, loves the Special Olympics and is a Three time World Champion in track and field.

This story is not all about the medals and ribbons Corey won over the years or his trips to China and Ireland to compete in the World Championships.  No, it is about a man who appreciates every opportunity he was ever granted and how he is giving back.

You see, Corey graduated from Columbus Community High School in Columbus Junction in 1994.  Thanks to the “unlimited entry” rule used in most smaller track meets now, Corey got to not only be a part of a team that won four Southeast Iowa Super Conference titles while he was in high school, he also got to compete in many of the same meets his teammates did.

Corey wore the same uniform and toed the line just as his many Wildcat conference championship winning, state qualifying and state medal winning teammates did.   Corey is a competitor!  He loved the long jump and 100 meter dash while in high school.  Coach Tony Simmons made a big impact on Corey while he was a student at Cotter Elementary, where he got his first exposure to the Special Olympics.  High School Coach Ken Purdy made sure Corey always had a spot in the lineup when the meet entry rules allowed it.  Corey was the football manager while in high school and Coach Woepking made sure he had a spot on the sidelines for Columbus’ Alumni game victory over Wapello last month.  It wouldn’t have been a proper Wildcat victory without Corey offering encouragement to the players, doing his best to get the crowd enthused about the action on the field, and maybe even throwing his Columbus cap on the ground in disgust over a dropped pass or missed tackle.

Upon graduation from high school Corey moved to Muscatine and got an apartment at the Muscatine Residential Care Services complex.   In 1996, he got heavily involved with Muscatine’s Special Olympics group, coached by Ron Miller; while holding at least one part time job and sometimes two.   Corey excelled at many different levels in many different events.

He won his first World Championships in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1999. Corey traveled back from the Tar Heel state as a celebrity after winning gold medals in the 200 and 400 meter dashes and 4th place honors in the 100 meters.

In 2003 it was off to Dublin, Ireland for the World’s where Corey finished 3rd in the 100 meters and took runner-up honors in the softball throw.

2007 marked the last year that Corey would compete on the big stage.  He made the trip to Shanghai, China and won his “specialty”, the long jump, was 2nd in the 400 and ran a leg on the 3rd place 4×100 team.

Corey Leonhard is a giver in so many ways.  He works every day at Menard’s in Muscatine but finds time to be involved in as much as he can.   He is special in so many ways.  He knows everyone.  Everyone knows him and he is so appreciative of what he has.  Corey’s aunt, Donna Belle Hughes was, perhaps, his biggest fan and supporter.  Donna Belle passed away a few years ago and Corey misses their relationship very much.  But it is for Donna Belle and countless others that Corey does what he does every day, to the best of his ability, in an effort to make everyone proud.

Corey’s days as a competitive athlete are over, but he is still very much involved in the Special Olympics in Muscatine as an assistant coach for new head coach Jason Miller.  The Muscatine Special Olympics softball team will be taking part in the state tournament in Ames on August 4th and Coach Leonhard will be there offering both encouragement and instruction.  Hoping to help an individual or his team achieve their dreams; just like his coaches helped him.

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