For the first time ever, a Michigan team won the gold medal in golf at the Special Olympics. Their chemistry together has been a long time in the making. Kurt and Alikhan have been friends for 33 years. If you spend a round of golf with AliKhan and Kurt, their chemistry is as clear as the blue sky on a perfect summer day.
"You had the best shot again," Jeanna Trotman asked Alikhan. "Kurt says that happens often?" Alikhan responded without hesitation, "yes it does."
Kurt and Khan compete in level two at the Special Olympics. In Orlando in June, that's where they won gold. It’s a nine hole unified round. One golfer is the traditional athlete. That’s Khan. And the other golfer is the unified partner, that’s Kurt.
"He’s my best friend," Alikhan said of Kurt. "He’s my best brother that I have."
"I’ve known him for a long time and I have never seen him happier," said Kurt. "The last two weeks he’s been literally on cloud nine."
Socializing and sport were both a far stretch from AliKhan. Let alone winning a gold medal. As an infant, Khan was diagnosed with Microcephaly. According to the Mayo Clinic, it's a condition where his brain stopped developing and his skull stopped growing. It has led to cognitive and developmental issues. Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition in which an infant's head is much smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex. Sometimes detected at birth, microcephaly often occurs when there is a problem with brain development in the womb or when the brain stops growing after birth.
Microcephaly can be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Children with microcephaly often have developmental issues. Although there's no treatment for microcephaly, early intervention with speech, occupational and other supportive therapies may help enhance a child's development and improve quality of life.
"From what you’ve been through, has life been sort of tough for you?" Jeanna Trotman asked Alikhan. Quietly and with a straight face, he responded that it has.
But the game of golf has eased that burden for AliKhan. He's been golfing since he was five and said he loves it.
AliKhan’s mother said his MRI results show the part of the brain that controls social skills and gross motor skills are the most underdeveloped. But to know Alikhan, is to know something bigger than science is at work. You can see his personality shine from three holes away.
The duo’s gold medal gives them a chance to compete in Berlin next June at the 2023 World Games, if they are chosen. Kurt says it would be a dream come true to continue to compete alongside his friend.
"He’s on the podium, its his thing I am just along for the ride," recalled Kurt. "They put the gold medal on him, then they put mine on, he leaned in, and gave me the biggest bear hug. He whispered in my ear, 'I love you so much, Kurt.' And that’s when I thought that’s what this is about. It was remarkable."
AliKhan has destroyed the odds, just as he destroys his drives. A gold medal, 33 years in the making. In Kurt’s words, remarkable, is right.