By Jano Tantongco
Paralympic gold medal winner Michael “Mikey” Brannigan, of East Northport, was welcomed home on Friday.
“I just feel pride and joy,” Brannigan said at Cause Cafe in Northport, which hosted a celebration to honor the 19-year-old, who has autism and won gold earlier this month at the 2016 Summer Paralympics hosted in Rio de Janeiro.
“I practice, and I train, and I never give up. It’s motivation. It’s all inside,” added Brannigan, a Northport High School grad who is currently enrolled at Suffolk Community College.
Brannigan competed in the T20 category for athletes with intellectual impairments. He won the gold medal on Sept. 13 when he finished the race in 3:51.73, besting competitors Daniel Pek, of Poland, who earned silver with a time of 3:56.17 and Peyman Nasiri Bazanjani, of Iran, who won bronze with a time of 3:56.24.
His mother, Edie Brannigan, said she was nervous to have her son travel to Brazil alone, but was comforted to learn he would be brought there by a U.S. Department of Defense plane.
When it came time to watch Brannigan compete, his mother said, the family watched from the stands at the games with “so much anticipation.”
“I kept thinking, we have to bring the gold medal home to Northport for everything they’ve ever done for Mikey,” she said. “This is the most supportive town ever.”
She added that the family has “dreamed of this a thousand times.”
“Mikey was trained and knew exactly what to do. He paced himself and he commanded the race,” Edie said. “It was Mikey’s race all the way.”
Stacey Wohl, owner of Cause Cafe, which offers employment to teens and adults with disabilities, said she and her employees were “very inspired” by Brannigan’s story.
“He overcame boundaries and obstacles when everyone said that he couldn’t, and he won an Olympic medal,” said Wohl, adding that she has two autistic children.
Pastry chef Alex Alvino and head chef Christin Butcher made a chocolate cake in the shape of an Olympic medal and presented it to Brannigan on Friday.
Wohl added, “For my staff and myself and all the parents, I wanted to do something to honor him.
“We just think he’s awesome.”