Pahoa’s Louie Perry III a triple World Champion
Pahoa’s Louie Perry III returned from Athens, Greece on Wednesday as a triple World Champion in track & field.
“It had always been a dream of mine to win a medal in the World Games,” Perry said. “I never thought I’d win three medals and all gold.”
Perry, 27, competed in the World Special Olympics and won gold medals in the 1500 and 3000 meter runs and added a third as a member of Team USA’s 4×400 relay.
The World Special Olympic Games lasted for several days, from June 25 to July 4, with hundreds of athletes from all over the world competing.
Perry was the only Big Island Special Olympic athlete selected to participate in the World Games as he gained attention from the national team for his ability to set several state distance records during Special Olympic competition.
“Louie was a worthy choice to represent Team USA in track & field,” Perry’s caregiver, Mar Ortaleza said.
Perry proved himself against the best Special Olympic athletes in the world. For each of his three races he needed to do a preliminary, qualifier, in order to make the finals.
“I was just hoping I could win a medal, any medal, because I knew I was running against the world’s best,” Perry said.
Perry’s first gold medal in Greece came in the grueling 3,000 meter run, a 7 and a half lap race around the track.
“I was actually running in last place going into the final lap,” Perry said. “I knew I had to push the last lap really hard if I was going to win and I started passing all those guys in front of me until I eventually passed the leader.”
Perry felt that his training in the Hawaii heat played a role in his victory.
“The temperature was around 82 and the guys in front of me were melting,” he said
Going into the final straight away Perry needed a strong sprint and a lean at the tape to come away with the win by two tenths of a second, finishing in 10 minutes 32.15 seconds.
Prior to Perry’s departure to Greece, Ortaleza had dubbed him “Greece Lightning” a name which is indicative of Perry’s ability.
“He’s now “Gold Greece Lightning”, Ortaleza said.
Ortaleza credits Perry’s dedication and self-motivation as the key factors to his overwhelming success.
“I’ll take Louie to the Pahoa or Hilo track where he will do his speed workouts on a regular basis,” Ortaleza said. “He knows exactly what to do and he impresses me by his ability to remember his times as he does 400 meter repeat laps around the track for speed.”
The Pahoa High graduate ran cross country and track during his four years with the Daggers and had since become a regular fixture at many local community 5K runs.
Over the years Perry has demonstrated a tenacious ability to overcome some of his mental and physical challenges by working hard to pursue his dreams.
“Louie has had a lot to overcome,” Ortaleza said. “Besides being mentally challenged he also suffers from severe asthma which at times has interrupted his training.”
For years Perry has been a fixture in lower Puna where he would log long runs of 10 miles followed by track workouts at the Pahoa cinder facility.
“I usually run 400 meter repeats of 72 to 75 seconds with a short rest between each one,” Perry said. “I like to run as it is my favorite thing to do and I like taking pictures of the ocean and the animals.”
Capturing gold in the 1500 and 1600 relay became just icing on the cake for the humble Pahoa native.
“I didn’t expect to win all those gold medals,” Perry said. “I just tried my hardest and I was able to win.”
In the 4×400 relay Perry was given the opening leg which put pressure on the Pahoa native.
“I knew I had to go out fast during the relay in order to help my team gain the lead,” Perry said. “I think during my leg I ran 67 seconds, or something like that.”
Perry, who has become an acclaimed nature photographer, has had his work shown and sold at a variety of venues. He will be showing his work later this month.
According to Ortaleza, Perry will be having an artist table at the upcoming Abled Hawai’i Artist (AHA) -Hawai’i Island 4th Annual Art Festival at Prince Kuhio Plaza on Saturday, July 23 from 10 am to 3 pm.
“Louie will sign autographs and take photos with members of the public during the Art Festival,” Ortaleza said. “We’re hoping the public will come out and greet our World Champion.”
Upon his return to the Big Island on Wednesday, Perry was greeted at the airport to a hero’s welcome with members of the community, including Mayor Billy Kenoi and Puna Council Representative Fred Blas joining in the celebration to welcome home a world champion.
Kenoi proclaimed July 6 as Louie Perry III Day, a well deserved distinction for a three time world champion!