This story appears in the Feb. 27 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Let me introduce myself. I am Ian Rawn, 34 years old, from Plano, Texas. I work for an accounting firm, am a trained firefighter and love the Dallas Cowboys, Arkansas Razorbacks football, "Les Mis," Tara Lipinski, karaoke and cooking.
I am also a figure skater, and I will be the only member of Team USA from Texas at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria (March 14-25). I have Down syndrome, you see, but thanks to my wonderful family and an amazing support group, I am doing things that some might never have thought possible.
Take my program for Austria, which my coach, Jayne Marshall, and I have been working on for a year. I will skate on the ice to the theme from the Spider-Man movie, dressed in a costume with webs. In my two minutes, 10 seconds, I will do a spiral waltz jump, a toe loop, a scratch spin, a salchow, a cross-Chinese arabesque, a shoot-the-duck, a backward spiral, another waltz jump, then a salchow spin to stop and a bow.
Pretty cool, no? Especially given the obstacles I've had to overcome. People with Down syndrome often have heart defects, and I had to undergo three operations as a child, though my heart is now stable. There are a lot of people with Down syndrome in the world, and we have different abilities and different things that are challenging, just like the rest of the population. The cool part is that we are all awesome, in our own unique way. I graduated with honors from high school.
We also have to occasionally deal with people who don't understand the potential of people with Down syndrome, but my family has always surrounded me with love and support wherever we've lived -- Little Rock, Seattle, Pittsburgh and now Texas.
My father, Jeff, is a priest at Christ Church Anglican in Plano. My mother, Cinde, is the executive director of Threads of Hope, a nonprofit economic development program that helps indigenous women and disabled adults in South America. My older sister, Story, is a history professor in Arkansas, and I love being Uncle Ian to her two daughters. My younger brother, Madison, is a paramedic in Austin.
My mom likes to say that I was always a dreamer. When I was a kid in Arkansas, I would ride around the house in my toy fire truck. I wanted to be a fireman. Well, when we moved to Pennsylvania, I got a chance to realize that dream. The town we lived in, Sewickley, had a fire department that was looking for volunteers. I was accepted and went to training to be a hose, hydrant and equipment man. I got really good scores except on the math part -- my math is horrible -- so I was made a permanent probationary firefighter. When we had to move, the company threw me a going-away party, and one of the firemen took me up on this huge hook and ladder, and for a minute, I really was Spider-Man.
After we settled in Texas, I was able to live out two more dreams. The first was to be onstage: I love music and musicals, especially "Les Misérables." So I joined the Plano Youth Theatre. I acted in productions like "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," helped direct others and made some fantastic friends.
The other dream was inspired by gold medalist Tara Lipinski. When I saw her on TV at the 1998 Olympics in Japan, I told my family, "I want to be her." Well, about 10 years later, my brother was working with a guy, Paul Tassone, who taught me how to figure skate. So that's how I got started on this amazing ride. As it turned out, my work in the theater really helped me prepare for my figure skating.
It is funny that fire and ice became so much a part of my life. When you think about it, you need both to realize your dreams: the passion to follow your heart and the ability in your brain to stay calm and cool. My motto on the ice and in life is: "If you fall, you fall, but you get back up and finish."
I'll never forget the day the letter came from Team USA telling me I had made the team. It was ... overwhelming. It still is. I am so grateful to Eunice Kennedy Shriver for starting the Special Olympics, not only for myself and all the incredible friends I've made over the years in a variety of sports, but also for showing the world what people with challenges can do.
We can literally make dreams come true. I have another one, by the way. I have some experience as a team manager, so I would like one day to work for the Cowboys, especially with Dak Prescott, Jason Witten and Ezekiel Elliott.
Coverage of the Special Olympics World Winter Games begins March 18 on ABC and ESPN2.