Volunteer with a heart of gold helps ‘Lightning’ strike through the finish line

Written by: Erin Fish

In for five seconds, out for seven.  

This is the breathing exercise Team Massachusetts USA Games athlete, Lumene Montissol uses when she is feeling overwhelmed. 

Starting her week with a surprise from Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts and winning over the hearts of the world, Lumene has been in the spotlight a lot this week. While all of it has been exciting, she wishes she could be sharing these moments with her number one fan and support system, her father Emmanuel. 

Emmanuel had to change his plans to attend the USA Games at the last minute to take care of a family member back in Massachusetts. Lumene came to terms with the decision, but that has not stopped her from missing him during one of the best weeks of her life. 

Lumene, like any athlete, feels pressure when it comes to competing. At the 2022 USA Games she is competing in three events – the female long jump, the 4×100 relay and the female 200m. Lumene was happy with her score for the long-jump preliminary and she knew she would do fine in the 200 preliminary, but the 4×100 relay was a huge weight on her shoulders this week knowing it wasn’t just about her. She didn’t want to let her teammates down.  

Lumene’s nightmare came true when her team’s performance in the 4×100 preliminary was not up to standard. Exhausted and frustrated, Lumene had to find a way to bounce back for her 200m preliminary a couple of hours later.  

In for five seconds, out for seven.  

Practicing the breathing exercise over and over again to clear her head. Singing the words to her favorite song, Thunder, by Imagine Dragons. There was a plan in place to get in the right headspace for her next race. Relaxed and focused, Lumene headed over to the staging area for her next race wearing her tropical green crocs only to come face-to-face with adversity, yet again.

Special Olympics Volunteer Helps Athlete

Volunteer Gracie Paston lets Lumene barrow her sneakers.

Lumene’s bag with her cleats was not where she thought she had left it. How could this be happening? No cleats, no socks. All she had were her crocs. Her dreams for the Games were crumbling right in front of her. Lumene began to panic. Her hand on her chest, it became harder and harder for her to catch her breath. “I can’t run without my cleats!”, she screamed. 

In for five seconds, out for seven. 

Coach Michelle searched vigorously for her bag while others calmed her down, keeping her breathing. An announcement was made stating there was 10-minutes until the female 200m. She was running out of time. Coach Michelle asked everyone in sight about the bag, still no luck.  

In for five seconds, out for seven. 

Volunteers, coaches, and staff in the surrounding area began offering their shoes. Gracie Poston, a volunteer for the 2022 USA Games had a size 8 sneaker. Lumene is a 7.5, so that would have to do. Another staff member took off their socks and put them on Lumene’s feet before shoving her feet into Gracie’s shoes.

In for five seconds, out for seven. 

Volunteers rushed to get Lumene checked in and guided her to the starting line. Within a matter of a minute, the starting gun fired. Lumene was off – living up to her nickname, “Lightning”.

Thirty seconds later Lumene finished her preliminary race. Not only did she blow past her competition to finish first, but she set a new personal record for the 200 running it in 30.1 seconds.  

Sweaty and emotional, Lumene’s coaches and Gracie met her in the cooling tent after the race giving her tons of hugs and praise. Lumene takes a sip of water and nearly spits it out when she catches something out of the corner of her eye. “MY BAG,” she shouted.  

With all of the frustration after the relay earlier, she had left her bag in the cooling station. 

“It was just so amazing,” Coach Michelle said. “She was so upset, rightfully so and she brought it together and just blew that field away.” 

Lumene will forever be grateful for the volunteer who saved the day. “Whenever I was feeling upset, this kind-hearted volunteer just gave me her sneakers,” Lumene said. “And I feel grateful and happy for that volunteer to be there.” 

In better spirits, Lumene met up with her teammates at the Healthy Athletes tent. While getting ready to leave, a thunderstorm rolled through and ESPN World Wide of Sports made an announcement to shelter in place until the storm passed. One of Lumene’s teammates was distraught and in tears. Lumene went right over to them and told them it was out of their control – All they could do was breathe. 

In for five seconds, out for seven. 

5 responses to “Volunteer with a heart of gold helps ‘Lightning’ strike through the finish line”

  1. Ryan Dixon says:

    good luck/ go Team Mass and being a Medail back to Mass

  2. Danyelle Taylor says:

    This is AMAZING!!!
    You are my new HERO !!
    I want to help athletes like Lightning ❤
    How can I volunteer?

  3. Karen McGee says:

    At every Special Olympics event I have been a part of, there are many stories like this of kindness. People are just good and everyone who participates and volunteers for Special Olympics are the best of the best!!

  4. karlene says:

    This is so true I have been a part of Special Olympics since 1978 first as a volunteer then as a certified coach in Track & Field Basket Ball and Volley Ball.