Special Olympics Ready to Take Center Stage at Penn State
After a year of hard work, determination and pure love for competition, more than 2,000 athletes, 750 coaches and 2,500 volunteers will participate in the 43rd Special Olympics of Pennsylvania Summer Games.
Sponsored by Sheetz, Inc., the free event will be held on the Penn State campus Thursday night through Saturday.
The opening ceremonies will be held at 7:15 p.m. Thursday and will include lighting of the Olympic Torch. The torch makes a 150-mile journey, beginning at home plate in PNC Park in Pittsburgh and ending at home plate in Medlar Field.
Jennifer Tresp, senior competition director for Special Olympics said during the “Be a Fan” Torch Run, the “Flame of Hope” is carried by Pennsylvania law enforcement officials, known as the “Guardians of the Flame.”
“As the ‘Guardians of the Flame’ they are able to support the efforts of the athletes of the Special Olympics,” she said.
The lighting of the torch symbolizes the official start of the games, where athletes 8-years-old and older will compete in nine different events including track and field, aquatics, basketball, bowling, equestrian, golf, gymnastics, tennis and softball.
“All athletes must have a minimum of eight training session and compete in a local or sectional event before moving on to the Summer Games,” Tresp said.
Final events begin on Friday, with closing ceremonies taking place at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at Bigler Field.
Winners will receive awards based on their finishes. The top three competitors will be awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. Fourth through eight place finishers will be presented with ribbons.
Tresp said event divisions are based upon ability, so it is possible to have up to eight athletes in a division.
When athletes are not competing, other activities like Sports Fest and Olympic Village are also available during the weekend.
“Olympic Village is a favorite of the athletes, giving them a place to go during the day when they are not competing. There are games, a dunk-tank, crafts and food, just like the real Olympic Village,” said Volunteer Director Tommy Songer. “The organizers also usually have special events including monster trucks, emergency vehicle demonstrations and custom motorcycles.”
According to Tresp, being involved with the games and the additional activities helps the athletes both physically and mentally.
“The athletes benefit by increased physical fitness, self-confidence and they build friendships that last a lifetime,” Tresp said.
Songer believes those who take the time to volunteer or cheer the athletes on will also benefit greatly.
“Most people that attend or volunteer at the games will get more than they give. Watching the athletes compete, the sportsmanship, the camaraderie and the amount of volunteer help that is given over this week will give most attendees a new perspective,” he said.
To find a complete schedule of this year’s games, visit sopasummergames.org.