NICEVILLE — Family members gathered at the Martial Arts Combat Academy on Saturday to watch Harrison Mauldin receive an honorary black belt.
The 14-year-old Crestview resident earned the honor for his accomplishments in the Special Olympics, along with showing leadership skills and determination.
Harrison, who has a high-functioning form of autism, has participated in the Special Olympics for the past two years, winning a bronze medal in the 800-meter run and a silver medal in the 1,500-meter run in May during the state Olympic games in Orlando.
"I have never met anyone with the determination that he has," Harrison’s father, Rodney, said. "Once he sets his mind to something, he is going to do it."
This was the first time the Niceville academy has given an honorary black belt to someone with no martial arts background, instructor John Lee said.
However, Harrison "fit the mold" for criteria of earning an honorary black belt, he said.
"In society today, he is trying to be a positive role model, not just in the Special Olympics, but he encourages other children to get up and be healthy," Lee said.
Harrison also received a martial arts uniform and plaque.
Achieving victory in anything is simple for the teenager, who plans to continue participating in Special Olympics running competitions.
"I win in my heart," Harrison said. "I will always picture myself as a winner."
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.