CMU hosts 2012 Special Olympics Summer State Games
Elizabeth Viele, 2011 Inspirational Athlete of the Year, ignited the Flame of Hope during Opening Ceremonies in Kelly/Shorts Stadium Thursday, starting the 2012 State Summer Games.
Since 1971, Central Michigan University has been home for the state games, even hosting the Special Olympics World Games in 1975. Competition began Friday with events held in the Indoor Athletic Complex, the Student Activity Center and on various athletic fields around campus.
Honorary Chairman George Perles, former Michigan State University football coach, began the weekend with a keynote speech.
“What’s important to remember is that a few minutes of competition gives you a lifetime of memories,” he said. “Get out there, try your best and go for the gold!”
Dave Blackmer, an Eaton County athlete, competed in the 25- and 50-yard breaststroke competitions. He has competed in the Summer Games since 1987.
“The challenge keeps me coming back,” he said. “I used to compete in the softball throw and wheelchair races, but I like swimming because it works my entire body.”
Hundreds of volunteers were present throughout the entire weekend, including many members of the CMU football team, former NFL player T.J. Duckett and Miss Michigan pageant winner Elizabeth Wertenberger.
“My favorite thing was seeing the connections made between the volunteers and athletes who return every year,” Westland senior and SOMI volunteer Katie Kalajian said. “They really get to know each other, and look forward to reuniting every summer. It’s a great experience.”
This was Kalajian’s first year as a volunteer, but she said she is coming back in the future.
“It was great to see all of the athletes and volunteers working together to have fun,” she said. “I definitely plan on helping out again next year and informing others about how they can get involved.”
Many athletes sported shirts with the official oath of the Special Olympics on the back: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
“My mind works – it’s my physical body that’s injured,” Blackmer said. “I go for the gold every time I compete, and I enjoy every second of it. People need to learn to do that.”
Although he gets nervous before each competition, Blackmer said he tries to keep his overall goal in mind.
“I get butterflies, but you’ll always have butterflies before something big happens,” he said. “It’s like before Tom Brady plays in another Superbowl, saying ‘Here we go again.’ But once you begin, it all goes away. You feel ready, and you keep swimming as hard as you can.”
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