By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Special Olympics athletes from 14 areas in Oklahoma are training for the 18th annual state Winter Games, set for Jan. 9-11.
Athletes will compete in aquatics, basketball, bowling and volleyball on Oklahoma City Community College and the University of Oklahoma campuses and in surrounding communities. More than 2,200 Special Olympics athletes are expected to compete at the Winter Games this year.
“Competing at the state level is a big deal. And visiting the OCCC and OU campuses and competing in the facilities college athletes use is a really big deal,” said Donna Ham, Special Olympics
Oklahoma marketing and communication director.
Athletes range in age from 8 and up, with some athletes 80-plus.
“One year, we had bowlers in their 80s. Any age above 8 can compete, so long as they’re physically able,” Ham said.
The State Winter Games will follow the below schedule:
· Aquatics, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Oklahoma City Community College Aquatics Center, 7777 S. May Ave., Oklahoma City. Attendees should take Faculty Circle around to the Aquatics Center and watch for the Special Olympics banner.
· Singles Bowling, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at AMF Boulevard, 3501 S. Blvd., Edmond; AMF Windsor, 4600 NW 23rd St., Oklahoma City; AMF Yukon, 500 E. Main St., Yukon; Holiday Lanes Bowling Center, 44 SE 44th St., Oklahoma City; and Penn 44 Lanes Bowling Center, 2241 SW 44th St., Oklahoma City.
· Volleyball, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of Oklahoma Huston Huffman Center, 1401 Asp Ave.
· Volleyball Skills, 10:30 a.m. to noon at the University of Oklahoma Huston Huffman Center, 1401 Asp Ave.
· Opening Ceremonies, 7 to 10 p.m. at Journey Church, 2801 Journey Parkway, Norman. This is closed to the public.
· Doubles Bowling, 9 a.m. to noon at AMF Windsor, 4600 NW 23rd St., Oklahoma City; AMF Yukon, 500 E. Main St., Yukon; and Heritage Bowling Lanes, 11917 N Pennsylvania Ave., Oklahoma City.
· Basketball, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of Oklahoma Huston Huffman Center, 1401 Asp Ave.
· Young Athletes — Stars of the Future, 9 to 11 a.m. at the University of Oklahoma Huston Huffman Center Dance Studio, 1401 Asp Ave.
· Basketball Skills, 2 to 4 p.m. at the University of Oklahoma Huston Huffman Center, 1401 Asp Ave.
· Team Bowling, 1 to 4 p.m. at AMF Windsor, 4600 NW 23rd St., Oklahoma City; AMF Yukon, 500 E. Main St., Yukon; and Heritage Bowling Lanes, 11917 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Oklahoma City.
Ham said the Special Olympics faculty was grateful to all the locations that offered space for the Winter Games.
“We couldn’t do it with so many athletes if it weren’t for the University of Oklahoma that shuts down the Huffman Center to students during the Special Olympics,” Ham said. “We just couldn’t do it without the generous Norman and surrounding communities.”
The opening ceremonies will feature refreshments and a dance as well as Miss Oklahoma Teen USA 2014 winner Brooklynne Bond and Miss Oklahoma USA 2014 winner Brooklynne Young, who will sign autographs, and a law enforcement torch run. The Staci Shipman Youth Volunteer award winner also will be announced during the ceremony. Ham said the ceremony will have the feel of pomp and circumstance and be fun.
The Young Athletes — Stars of the Future event is for children ages 3 to 7 who are too young to compete in the Special Olympics. Children who attend the event can play games similar to the real competition.
“It can introduce parents to the opportunities of Special Olympics, and it also lets siblings get involved, as they can go around with their brother or sister as they play games,” Ham said.
Families with children ages 3 to 7 can call the Special Olympics Oklahoma office starting Jan. 2 and ask for Beth White to get more information and register.
Ham said the public could visit any of the Winter Games competitions to cheer for the athletes.
“Give them a high five if you see them around town or come to the games and cheer. They’re stars for the weekend,” she said.
For more information, call 800-722-9004 or visit sook.org.
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