On a beautiful, sunny day in Richmond, hundreds of Special Olympics athletes from all over Virginia arrived at the University of Richmond, excited and ready to compete!!
Last weekend, June 6th-7th, the Special Olympics Virginia Summer State Games took place at the University of Richmond. The athletes competed in a wide range of sports including track, swimming, softball, tennis, bocce, bowling, and powerlifting. I was there as a swimmer, representing Area 26, the Northern Virginia region.
The Games began with the Opening Ceremony on Friday night. One of the main events at the opening ceremony was the Law Enforcement Torch Run. Law enforcement officers from around Virginia carried the Torch into the arena and lit the cauldron to start the competition. It was a special and emotional moment. After the Torch Run, a band took the stage, while the athletes waved glow sticks and clapped their Thunderstix.
Prior to the Games, I was in the pool practicing three days a week. On Saturdays I worked with my good friend and coach Anne; on Sundays I worked with my coaches Terry Mitchell and Rich Wolf; and on Tuesdays I worked with my mom. In April, at a regional meet at George Mason University, I qualified to compete in the 200-meter freestyle, 50-meter breaststroke, and 50-meter freestyle.
On Saturday, as my races neared, I felt confident and calm because of my coaches and my training. I was thinking about how much work I had put in to get to states and how great I knew would do. In all three of my races, I earned best times, winning gold in 50 freestyle (41.25) and 200 freestyle (3:34.95) and silver in 50 breaststroke (52.41).
Throughout the day, I watched other good races including the 800-meter freestyle. That’s 32 laps! After I left the pool, I went to the fair, which has Healthy Athletes, activities, souvenirs, and food. I also watched track, another sport that I compete in through Special Olympics. After the Closing Ceremony ended there was a soccer-themed dance for all the athletes and coaches. It was a blast!
Special Olympics’ mission is to provide sports, health, education, and community building opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities and to help athletes build confidence. Special Olympics means a lot to me because it has opened so many doors. I have made new friends, traveled around the world, spoken to large crowds, and had people cheer me on each step of the way.