CARLSBAD — More than 400 athletes took to their fields, courts and pool on May 14 as part of the San Diego County’s Special Olympics Regional Spring Games at Carlsbad High School.
San Diego County Regional Director Karen Terra said the athletes competed in aquatics, basketball and bocce, with the gold medalists, and possibly silver and bronze, qualifying for the Southern California Summer Games in Long Beach from June 11 to June 12.
Dozens of volunteers assisted in the effort, Terra added, such as law enforcement, including the Carlsbad Police Department, Carlsbad Police Explorers and SWAT members.
“It was a great event,” she said. “People who medaled … will qualify to be sent up to the Summer Games. There is the possibility they could qualify for the USA Games and even the World Games.”
She said athletes from throughout the county plus Temecula and Orange County competed in the one-day event.
But what the games do, Terra explained, is priceless. For example, one athlete who suffers from autism and is non-verbal was urged by a relative to join. At the games, the athlete was removed from “his shell,” with a bright smile, dancing and using non-verbal communication.
Terra said the athlete’s mother was in tears over the vast improvement of self-confidence.
“They see the changes in their children when they participate in these programs,” she added. “There have been changes that are so signification.”
Terra said those who coach the athletes match the time and dedication from family and friends. Once the coach-athlete relationship begins, they meet once per week to train in their events.
She said it is a critical step in the process for the athletes to gather self-esteem and improve in their sport.
Not only are their change in temperaments noticeable, but also the quality of their play. Terra said one county floor hockey team who won gold in the fall, recently won gold in their chapter (state level) and qualified for the World Games in Austria.
“Our programs change our athletes lives,” she said. “They develop friendships, they are more likely to have a job. They also get to compete with their friends. They really want to win, but support their friends.”
But the special Olympians are not done in Carlsbad. Next week, they along with law enforcement members from the FBI, Secret Service, DEA, San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, California Highway Patrol and Carlsbad, Escondido and Oceanside police departments will begin the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
It begins in Chula Vista, and over the course of the next 10 days the torch will make its way to Long Beach State University for the Opening Ceremonies for the Summer Games.
The athletes and law enforcement will be in Carlsbad June 2 at 8:10 a.m. and run from La Costa Avenue along Highway 101 where the torch will eventually will be passed to Marines from Camp Pendleton in Oceanside.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.