Special Olympics Oklahoma celebrates 50th anniversary
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) - Special Olympics Oklahoma is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
To kick off this year's events, nearly 2,700 Special Olympics athletes competed in the annual State Winter Games.
"This is an experience that will change your life," said Sherwood Taylor, Winter Games committee chairman.
"Athletes will compete at the state level after qualifying in area competitions and will come from all over the state of Oklahoma to compete in basketball, bowling, swimming and volleyball," said Special Olympics Marketing and Communications Manager Paige Martin.
Special Olympics provides thousands of citizens with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to participate in year-round training and athletic competitions.
"It's pretty fun to get a gold medal. It's kind of hard. You got to play and do your best and have fun and work hard. I try to make coaches proud of me," said Robert Jackson, an athlete.
"We had a good team. The people we went against, they were really good. They had good defense and offense and everything," said Corrie Turner, an athlete.
Taylor said the Special Olympics give athletes the chance to play a variety of games and make friends.
"I’ve got friends now from all over the state. Every time there’s an event, we find each other. Everyone’s excited, and we hug and we try to figure out who’s going to be where. It’s a lot of fun," said David Francis, a coach.
Francis said the Special Olympics can also give athletes the opportunity to explore the world.
"Seven years ago, we were getting ready for the United States Games in New Jersey, and I was just the bowling coach. Cody was one of my bowlers," said Francis. "Cody and his partner did really well. About a year and a half ago, people were trying out to go to the national games in Seattle to represent Oklahoma, and Cody wanted to go but didn't have a partner."
Francis said he didn't want Cody to miss it and decided to partner with him.
"We went to Seattle. When they picked for international games, each state got allotted certain athletes, Oklahoma was actually allotted one male bowler and one male partner. Since Cody and I had just represented the state in Seattle, we got picked to go to Abu Dhabi," said Francis.
Officials said there will be 7,000 athletes from 170 countries at the world competition.
According to the Special Olympics, this will be the first World Games to be held in the Middle East/North Africa region. Abu Dhabi is in the United Arab Emirates.
"We can't wait to represent Team USA!" said Francis.
Cody will compete for the medal in March.