Taileena Oja of Sedalia, daughter of John and Lori Ann Oja, was recently named Show Me State Games Female Athlete of the Year. She was also named the National Congress of State Games Youth Athlete of the Year.
Each year nearly 500,000 athletes of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels take part in State Games competitions nationwide. From these competitors one adult male, one adult female and one athlete age 18 and under (Taileena) are selected as the national winners.
Due to being selected as the one competitor to receive this honor, she was also featured in the Oct. 7 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine in a section called “Faces in the Crowd.”
In the photo, Taileena Oja pose with Dana Vollmer, a four-time Olympic Gold medalist, and current record holder of two world swim records, taken at the National Congress Athlete of the year banquet.
The other photo (at right) shows Taileena, age 10, after she received her Show Me State Games Athlete of the year award during the MU vs Tennessee pregame Nov. 2.
According to the Show Me State Games organization, Oja dominated in the pool at the 2013 competition, taking home eight gold medals. Not only did Oja win gold in all of her races, she blew away her competition – winning each race by at least five seconds over the second place competitor. 2013 marked Oja’s third year participating in the Show-Me State Games Swimming event. She began swimming at two years old and started with the local swim club at age three and now, not only is Oja a champion swimmer, she is also a competitive gymnast.
Oja’s sportsmanship and a great attitude remain top priorities. She says, “I like to be supportive of other athletes and I think it is important to always keep a good attitude. An athlete should always do their best, never give up, and be themselves. I am serious about my goals, but I remember to have fun with it and with my competitors and friends.”
“We are so excited that our Missouri Lottery Athlete of the Year is being recognized for her achievements at the national level,” said Jennifer Shear, who coordinates the Athlete of the Year program for the GAMES. “Taileena is a great representation of the spirit and talent that the Show-Me State Games stands for and we are so proud of her.”
Taileena is a fifth grader at Sedalia Middle School. -–Submitted.