Hundreds of athletes are coming to compete for a spot in the Special Olympics World Games.
By Jason KUROSU
In preparation for the 2015 Special Olympics Southern California Summer Games in Long Beach, approximately 200 athletes will participate in a tri-valley track meet on April 18 at Crescenta Valley High School.
Six delegations, each comprising around 20-40 team members, will compete at CVHS from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The athletes will be vying for spots at the Long Beach Games in June, which will feature competitions in six sports: aquatics, athletics (track & field), basketball, bocce, golf and gymnastics.
Kim Villa, director of Community Engagement for the Special Olympics World Games and a local resident, said that 300 volunteers have been registered for the event, many of them Crescenta Valley High students who will be paired with athletes as “buddies” for the day. However, many more people are invited to sponsor the athletes on Saturday as there are only 40 of the participating athletes sponsored at this point.
“We are offering people an opportunity to Sponsor An Athlete for this event. They will be given the name of an athlete and the events they are participating in so they can be there to cheer for them,” said Villa.
Villa, who will also be recruiting fans to come out to this year’s Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, said that the experience of seeing the competition and celebrating the work of the athletes can have as large an effect on the bystanders and volunteers as on the athletes themselves.
“This is a chance for people to get out and celebrate these individuals as athletes when they don’t always get to be recognized that way,” said Villa. “It has a huge impact on their self-esteem and their desire to compete again. It’s very transformative.”
In addition to the Southern California summer games in Long Beach, the 14th Special Olympics World Games will be in Los Angeles this summer, the first summer games held in the United States since 1999’s Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh games.
Seven thousand athletes from 177 countries will compete throughout the week of games, participating in 25 different sporting events. The games will take place at a number of different venues in the L.A. area, including locations in Downtown Los Angeles, UCLA, USC, Long Beach, Griffith Park and Encino.
In addition, about 100 host towns will take in athletes prior to the World Games, where they will train and take part in community events. This year, Glendale is one of the Special Olympics host towns and will welcome athletes from Armenia, the Dominican Republic and Bonaire for three days before the World Games officially begin.
Those interested in sponsoring an athlete can text the amount and SOAthlete to (818) 330-1180. The Long Beach Summer Games will take place June 13 and 14 at California State University, Long Beach. The 2015 Special Olympics World Games will take place from July 25 to August 2 in Los Angeles.
For more information on the World Games, visit www.la2015.org.