RICHMOND, Ky. (LEX 18) — Hundreds of student-athletes gathered at Eastern Kentucky University’s campus today for the annual Special Olympics Kentucky. Lots of energy and excitement were felt with nearly 600 athletes in the competition.
"There is a particular energy to the summer games that is different from everything else we do," said Mark Buerger, Special Olympics Kentucky communications director.
Buerger said there have been a few changes to the 2021 event because of the pandemic. There are fewer athletes than normal with 600 compared to the 1,400 in a normal year. The annual event that usually runs the entire weekend, took place in one day.
In 2020, the summer games were canceled for the first time in history because of Coronavirus, Michael Higginbotham said he’s just happy to be there.
"And Madison County Special Olympics is so glad and they've been excited for it all year round. So they're really glad to have it back too," said Higginbotham.
Buerger said having to cancel last year was devastating because the competition is about more than just sports.
"That's a big part of this, right, that their social structure is back,” said Buerger. “The people they're used to seeing is back, and that's a big part of what today is about as well."
Saturday’s competition included Bocce, rhythmic gymnastics, soccer, swimming, and track and field.
Buerger said while winning is exciting, he thinks that more than medals, more than anything else is the excitement to be back.