The Special Olympics: a time to shine
It takes special people to compete in the Special Olympics and Park City and the surrounding areas are filled with them.
Large contingents of these special athletes were able to bring home handfuls of hardware and ribbons in various events at this year’s Utah Special Olympics Summer Games held at Brigham Young University in Provo over the weekend. Events included track and field, softball/teeball, soccer and wheelchair events.
Despite intermittent inclement weather, the athletes managed to stay dry and focused on competition and fun.
Cindy Gottschall, a champion walker, was able to collect a gold and a bronze in the fast walking events. She also won a ribbon in softball/teeball. She had hoped for a medal in that event, but was still happy to bring some recognition home.
"The Olympic motto is ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,’" Gottschall said.
Gottschall, who says that she competes for the social aspects, exercise and muscle-building, called her time spent in Provo, "pretty cool."
Another Park City athlete, 21-year-old Ta’Niesha Adams, led her team, the Tazmanian Devils from the Danville Services care facility in Heber, in track and softball events. According to her mother, Janet, she has been involved in the Special Olympics for many years and competes in events year-round.
"She’s always been very athletic," Janet said.
Adams had an entire cheering section, including her grandparents and brothers, during her events. She also had the emphatic support of the Danville team. Encouragement is one aspect of the Special Olympics that stands out from other events. In fact, that is Adams’ favorite part of the event.
"I encourage the kids," Adams said.
Danville family support manger Claudia Anderson said that the athletes are so enthusiastic that they usually cheer the other team on as well.
"Just seeing the excitement ," Anderson said, getting teary-eyed. "Just to see how well they cheer each other on."
Anderson said one of the best parts of the Special Olympics is that there is an event for everyone, regardless of all mental or physical ability.
"Everybody can fit in somewhere," Anderson said.
They also want to win. A medal is very important to these athletes, regardless if it is gold, silver or bronze, according.
"They just love it," Anderson said. "They are a wee bit competitive, but they don’t mind the color. They want the medal."
Another draw is the chance to be athletic just like other people.
"It makes them feel ‘normal,’" Anderson said. "It makes them feel that they can do stuff just like everybody else."
Besides competing, all of the athletes converge at the Provo Marriott and attend a dinner, dancing and other social events. According to Anderson, the kids look forward to coming together at all Special Olympics competitions.
"They love to get together, love people and love the hotel," Anderson said. "It’s a way big social event."
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