Yuma Special Olympics heads off to compete in Summer Games
All qualifying athletes from the Yuma Delegation now competing in track and field, powerlifting
YUMA, Ariz., (KYMA, KECY) - After months and months of hard work, one big group of athletes from Yuma underwent a special sendoff to showcase their skills in the summer's statewide competition.
In one of the biggest competitions of the year, the Special Olympics Arizona State Summer Games will feature more than 1,500 athletes statewide celebrating inclusion and showcasing their skills in track and field, volleyball, powerlifting, and esports.
For the Yuma Delegation, dozens and dozens hopped on the bus Thursday afternoon to travel to Glendale to compete in track and field and powerlifting events after qualifying in the area meet last month.
"It's huge for them. They've practice for a long time and it's exciting for them to show off their skills and be with their friends," said Yuma Delegation Director, Kelly Smith. "A lot of our athletes don't get to travel very much in their daily lives, so being able to go on these trips, it is eye opening for them and a pretty big deal."
On top of their own competitions, Special Olympics Arizona’s Healthy Athletes program will also provide complimentary medical screenings and education to athletes in mental health, sports physicals, podiatry, physical therapy, dentistry, and audiology.
This just adding to the excitement for each athlete who get to shift from their comfort zone and take part in something really special. One athlete is ready for all the awards he and his teammates get to enjoy at the end of it all
"It's about the medals. Gold and silver, and the ceremony," he said before getting on the bus. "It's like all the stars (of our team) fighting for the stars!"
Tagging alongside him was his mother - who pointed to the importance of the Special Olympics on days like this.
"I'm so proud. He's happy and in his environment," said his mother. "He really enjoys the trips and being a part of a group. It's a pleasure. The Special Olympics is a wonderful thing for them."
And that excitement also reaches the volunteers and coaches involved in the Special Olympics, as well. Shad Stahl joined to become a powerlifting coach this year and he was taken back by how special it is, as he got ready for his first state games trip.
"It's the big lights for these guys. This is about them and this is their moment," said Stahl. "They get to go through the whole weekend and they get the whole "shebang." You can see this nice bus behind us and this is all about them. Even from my first week coaching, it a little emotionally taxing because of how exciting everything was. It hit a little bit differently than I thought it was going to. This is awesome."
The weekend got underway at Kellis High School with a ceremony that included the parade of athletes, ceremonial torch lighting, and the fan favorite victory dance. Then the events began to take place all day Friday, followed by another day to come on Saturday.