The athlete lying on the bench gripped the weightlifting bar loaded with heavy plates. He lowered it to his chest and slowly… slowly… raised it by small increments.
Just when it appeared he would not be able to return the bar to its starting position, he gave a final push, and he had done it — and the crowd in Hammons Student Center exploded with applause.
This is just one moment of triumph from the Special Olympics Missouri State Summer Games, held May 20-22 in Springfield, with all events on the Missouri State University campus. Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
The sounds of upbeat pop music and starting pistols, and the smells from food trucks, filled Bear Boulevard near Allison South Stadium as athletes of all ages competed in powerlifting, volleyball, aquatics, soccer, and track and field.
Special Olympics statewide competitions — which include these Summer Games, as well as Indoor Games and Outdoor Games in other cities — are the highest levels of competition for these athletes in Missouri. Participants qualify by training for at least eight weeks and competing at local or regional events. If they do well in Missouri’s games, they may qualify for national or world Special Olympics events.
Springfield is the host for the Summer Games from 2015-2018. Special Olympics Missouri worked with the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Springfield Sports Commission to identify venues that would be able to host more than 1,000 athletes.
Brandon Schatsiek, public relations manager at Special Olympics Missouri, also said the organization has a great rapport with people in leadership positions at MSU, and knew the community would support the games.
Kristin Tivener, an instructor in Missouri State’s sports medicine and athletic training department, coordinated all of the medical volunteers.
“I think the fact that we have some great, newly renovated athletics facilities within easy distance of each other helped them select MSU. I’m glad we were able to host. It’s such a cool event.”
Hundreds of volunteers are needed for these games, and MSU alumni, students, faculty and staff members were among those who made the event possible.
Alumnus Mikel Cox, ’14 and ’16, has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in athletic training.
He works in outpatient rehab at Mercy Sports Medicine, so he was qualified to serve as a medical volunteer.
“These volunteers can look at injuries and administer first aid, or tell the athlete to see someone for further care.”
For him, the best part of the experience was witnessing the introduction of the powerlifting athletes.
“I am glad I am here to help them be able to compete,” he said.
And would he volunteer again next year? “Definitely!”