By Roxanne Truesdell
Gold, silver and bronze medals galore were awarded to athletes at this year”s Utah Summer Special Olympics, held Thursday through Saturday at BYU.
Athletes competed in a number of events, including track and field, cycling, soccer, t-ball, softball and motor skills during the three-day event.
“The purpose of Special Olympics is to give these athletes an opportunity to compete in the sports where they otherwise couldn”t,” said Charlene Johnson, director of public relations for the Utah Special Olympics. “It gives them a real sense of self-worth, just a goal to reach for, and they love it.”
The opening ceremonies kicked off the event at Larry H. Miller Park, with performances by ProForm Airborne (a jump-roping team), country band Range Fire, American Idol contestant John Preator, Max Air (a trampoline show) and the BYU Breakdance Club. Crowd participation played a major part in the event.
Preliminary competition for many of the events took place on Thursday, while the finals were held Friday and Saturday, ending with a handful of events at the Clarence Robison Track and Field Complex Saturday afternoon.
On Friday night, the “Victory Dance” gave the athletes the opportunity to rest from the athletic competition and dance the night away.
“It”s [the Special Olympics] also to promote a lot of social aspects in their lives that they don”t get the opportunity to do,” said Sean Sizertsen, coach of the team Blue Lightning, on Saturday. “For instance, last night there was a dance out here. Like half my team, even though they weren”t competing yesterday, [they] came here and participated in the dance because they wanted that social interaction.”
Cosmo and various BYU athletes – including volleyball, football and soccer players – came to interact with the Olympians before the closing ceremony Saturday afternoon. KUTV Channel 2 news anchor Fields Mosley was the emcee for the closing ceremonies, which included an exhilarating performance by the Utah Jazz dunk team, a slide show of the games and presentations of the medals.
“We all have special people in our lives, and they get us to where we need to be,” Mosley said. “Everyone has a support group.”
Many hours of hard work was put in to make these games a success. More than 1,000 volunteers comprised of people from the community and BYU students joined in on the fun. Johnson said they start planning the next year”s games as soon as the previous summer games competition is over.
“It was a lot of fun to work with all the athletes, and also a lot of the volunteers, and just gain a new perspective and get away from myself for a little while,” said Erika Dorff, chair of the registration committee.
Johnson said that the volunteers at BYU are top notch and that the game”s organizing committee has worked hard for months in advance to make sure the summer games are the best they can be.
“Everyone is so friendly and so willing to do anything that they are asked,” Johnson said. “Everyone knows here that it”s for the athletes. Just seeing the interaction between the volunteers and athletes is incredible.”
For complete results from the Olympics, go to www.sout.org. Complete results will be posted online no later than Wednesday.