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Special Olympics State Summer Games begin in Columbia

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 | 11:21 p.m. CDT; updated 9:21 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Tuesday marked the beginning of the 2012 Special Olympics State Summer Games, which returns to Columbia for the first time since 2007. Opening ceremonies included a parade dedicated to the athletes competing in the games, as well as a torch lighting ceremony to officially kick off the start of the games.

COLUMBIA— Blues music and dancing people filled Mel Carnahan Quadrangle on Tuesday night. The people there wore shiny green, gold and purple beads around their necks.

It was the opening of the Special Olympics State Summer Games, and the inspiration for the evening was Mardi Gras. According to Ben Stewart, public relations coordinator for Special Olympics Missouri, the theme was chosen to create a celebratory atmosphere around the games' return to Columbia.

Special Olympics State Summer Games schedule

Wednesday

Track and field: Walton Track, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Bowling: AMF Town & Country Lanes, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

  • 8 a.m. — 3-game singles
  • 10:30 a.m. — 3-game doubles and ramp
  • 1 p.m. — 3-game and unified teams
  • 3 p.m. – 3-game singles and unified doubles

Aquatics: MU Student Recreation Complex, Mizzou Aquatics Center, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Powerlifting: MU rec complex, South Gym, 9 a.m. to noon

Healthy athletes*: MU Student Center, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Victory Village: MU Student Center/Kuhlman Court, 3 to 6 p.m.

Dance/bingo: Kuhlman Court, 7 to 9 p.m.

Thursday

Basketball: MU rec complex, North and Rothwell Gymnasiums, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Volleyball: Columbia College, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Healthy athletes*: MU Student Center, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Victory Village: MU Student Center/Kuhlman Court, 3 to 6 p.m.

Dance: MU Student Center/Kuhlman Court, 7 to 9 p.m.

Friday

Basketball: MU rec complex, North and Rothwell Gymnasiums, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

*Health professionals will offer free screenings.

For more information about the 2012 Special Olympics Missouri visit the organization's website.



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For the first time since 2007, the Special Olympics State Summer Games is being held in Columbia. The event, which features about 2,000 athletes and 500 coaches, will run until Friday at MU and Columbia College.

The week's festivities started with the opening ceremonies Tuesday night, which began with a parade of athletes who walked from Missouri Avenue to Carnahan Quad. The parade was led by Missouri quarterback James Franklin and MU's Golden Girls.

The evening continued with award announcements and closed with Leanna Krogmann of Columbia, named Outstanding Athlete of the Year, lighting the cauldron to officially open the games.

Although the cauldron had not been lit, a few competitions kicked off the games Tuesday afternoon. One of them was bowling, which was held at Town and Country Lanes.

Aubree Priest, 26, is a bowler with Metro Inspiration, a team from Kansas City. She stood out of the crowd because of her blue and red University of Kansas bowling ball. Priest, a Jayhawk fan, bought the ball on eBay.

"I told her she was going to get us kicked out of MU with a KU ball," Sheryl Nelson, her coach, said. 

Priest has been bowling since she was 10 years old. This is her 15th time competing at the state games. She practices each week year-round in a league with her parents. Priest plays basketball as well, but bowling is her thing, Nelson said. 

"My favorite thing about bowling is spending time with my friends," Priest said. "This is my second family." 

At the tournament on Tuesday, teammates, coaches, family and friends supported one another with plenty of cheering, encouragement and hugs.

"The idea is just to have fun," Nelson said. "I don't specify winning. We cheer just as loud for a fourth place as we do a first place."

For some teams, coaching is a family thing. Regina Craig helps coach the team her son, 28-year-old Nicholas Craig, competes on. This is his first time bowling at the Special Olympics state competition.

"He really likes having his mom as his coach," Regina Craig said. 

Regina Craig's daughter, Macheznie Craig, also helps coach the team.

"They all love Macheznie," Regina Craig said. "They can't wait to see her and are disappointed when she is not there." 

The team practices together once a week and has had the chance to become friends, said Linda Johnson, the head coach of Nicholas Craig's team.

"We just want them to have fun. It's a social event," Johnson said.  

In addition to the games' competitions, there will also be a variety of other events for the athletes to participate in. During the four days of the summer games, activities such as bingo and a Mardi Gras themed dance will be held.

"I'm excited for the dance," Priest said. "I like to dance with my friends." 

The Special Olympics State Summer Games will be held in Columbia for the next four years. Mayor Bob McDavid said the games will provide a lot of fun for everyone for the next couple of days.

"Leave some of the joy and happiness behind," McDavid said at the opening ceremonies. "We'll take good care of it for you, and it will be here when you come back next year." 

Supervising editor is Ann Elise Taylor.


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