Athletes gear up for state Special OlympicsPublished 9:37pm Friday, May 17, 2013
By Tyler Spivey
More than 1000 energetic and visibly excited athletes paraded into the Trojan Arena at Troy University on Friday night.
The athletes were there to take part in the opening ceremonies of the 2013 Alabama Special Olympics State Games.
Troy University Dean of Student Services Herb Reeves said that 41 counties in Alabama are competing in different events at the university.
This is the seventh time the games have been held at the school, and according to Reeves, this year is a qualifying year for the National Special Olympics.
“I’m hoping we have a lot of good competition,” he said.
About 160 athletes from Alabama who qualify will be able to participate in the national games.
Reeves said he wants the athletes to enjoy themselves and have a positive experience.
“It’s a very rewarding experience for us,” he said. “We enjoy doing it.”
This year, the youngest athlete competing in the state games is 8 and the oldest is 69.
The games begin today at 9 a.m. and end Sunday morning with closing ceremonies at 9 a.m.
Athletes will be competing in events such as golf, gymnastics, swimming, track and field, bocce ball and other games.
Sharon Brindele is one of the coaches for “Team Starfish” from Gulf Shores. Her team has been competing since 2008.
“Swimming is something they can do forever,” Brindele said.
She said she enjoyed seeing the team members build confidence.
Brindele said that one of her swimmers, Miranda Whitehead has Cerebral Palsy and couldn’t swim four months ago, but now she can swim 25 meters.
Sissy Flanigan, the team captain of the Gulf Shores group said she is looking forward to the relay, the backstroke, and the freestyle.
But the athletes aren’t the only ones looking forward to the games.
Anthony Gardiner is a student at the university and is volunteering because he is a member of the graduate counseling student association.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the athletes and having personal interaction with the athletes and families,” he said.
Kathy Spivey, a parent of an athlete with Downs syndrome, said the Special Olympics has improved her son, David’s, social skills and confidence.
“I would encourage volunteers to get involved next year,” the mother said.
Madison County has the most athletes competing in this year’s Special Olympics with 146 people.