Special Olympics Enjoys Large Turnout

Photos by Steve HERNANDEZ Some of many participants of the Tri-Valley Special Olympics.
Photos by Steve HERNANDEZ Some of many participants of the Tri-Valley Special Olympics.

By Brandon HENSLEY

Let me win
If I cannot win
Let me be brave in attempt

–Official motto of the Special Olympics

Paul Kim was short on words, but maybe that’s because he was short on time. He was just minutes away from being called over to the starting line on the track to compete in the 50-meter dash.

These were the Tri-Valley Special Olympics, which were held last Saturday at the Susan Osborne Field at CV High School, a place for the athletes involved to have fun and showcase what they can do. Kim was personable, but his sentences were quick. What could be gathered from talking to him though is that he was not lacking in confidence.

“I’ve been running since my senior year of high school at Glendale High School,” said the 21-year-old, who was a part of the Glendale team. “I was the fastest one there.”

One of Kim’s coaches for the games, Todd Hunt, said Kim was nicknamed “The Flash” two years ago when he competed.

“I love it,” Kim said of the name. “It fits me. It fits my speed.”

After that Kim, was called over to start the race and Hunt leaned in and said knowingly, “Paul’s gonna win. You watch.”

Sure enough, Kim blew away the competition. He was the only one who crouched before the gun went off. He looked like a pro. After the race, he walked around a tent on the field made for athletes to go after their events were completed. Friends and fans walked up and high-fived him.

How does he feel after winning an event?

“Like I’m in the air,” he said.

The games held at CV High acted as a qualifier for the Long Beach games that will be held this summer, but, as the hundreds in attendance and who participated were reminded throughout the day, the main goal was to have fun.

The Master of Ceremonies was Rafer Johnson, a gold-medal Olympian for the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s. Johnson tried to put things in perspective.

“If I had think of one word that will move throughout the history of Special Olympics [it] is that we all have an opportunity,” he said. “The opportunity to be the best that we can be, and I don’t think that anyone can ask any more.”

Over 300 athletes competed, evidence that the games at CV are growing in popularity. These are the third Games the school has hosted, which are sponsored by CV CAN, a group that is committed to improving local athletic facilities (it raised money for the renovation for the Susan Osborne Field several years ago).

“The first year, [Special Olympics] didn’t know what to expect with us,” said Grace Chase, vice president of CV CAN. “The second year we had a few more athletes and this year we’re almost a hundred more athletes than we had before. We have delegations from Santa Barbara and Ventura which is new for us this year.”

Other teams that competed came from Santa Clarita and Long Beach. They all participated in events like the long jump, track events, a softball throw, and bocce ball.

It wasn’t just the athletes on the field, though. Chase estimated over 500 volunteers were on hand, including members of the CV baseball team and over 200 people from Montrose Church.

“These are people who are tied to the community, just neighbors and friends and people who want to put on a good event,” Chase said.

It was Michael Jacobs who wanted to put on a good show. Jacobs is 31 and has been competing in the Special Olympics for 13 years. He said he was carrying some heartbreak with him. His girlfriend has cancer and his father’s friend recently shot himself. Jacobs said he was competing on this day for his father.

Still, his enthusiasm shone through in the long jump. After completing several attempts, Jacobs excitingly posed and hollered, like a defensive player after sacking the quarterback.

“Who’s the big dog? Who’s the big dog?!” Jacobs yelled, much to the delight of the volunteers and audience.

“I’m trying to tell all the young guys it’s not about winning,” he said. “It’s all about having fun out here, the competition. Don’t let it get too serious.”

Hunt seemed to agree.

“I tell people this is one of the coolest things anyone can do, in terms of being involved with these athletes,” he said. “It is an absolute joy … the time and the effort, it’s completely worth it.”