Tri-Valley Special Olympics athletes, like their peers across Northern California, spent much of June training for and competing in their favorite sports from home as part of a reimagined competition that was broadcast online this week.
The "2020 Summer Games @ Home" event was created by Special Olympics Northern California (SONC) officials as a substitute for the typical annual in-person competition that was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Having the opportunity to participate virtually was such an excellent idea and so uplifting for those who chose to participate," Kay King, coach for the Pleasanton RADD program, told the Weekly.
"Jennifer Thomas mentioned that her neighbors cheered her on while she competed," King said. "Adam Pinney practiced diligently and recruited his support staff to work with him. For Joshua Layman and Ryan Butterly, also longtime RADD athletes, competing virtually did not matter, they were out to win gold regardless."
The "Summer Games @ Home" started with training at home from June 1-14 for the six sports on the docket: basketball, bocce, fitness, soccer, tennis, and track and field. Open to all children and adults with intellectual disabilities, the athletes could choose any or all of the sports to compete in.
Next up, from June 15-21, was the competition from home in which athletes electronically submitted their best individual results for each sport with the help of coaches, volunteers and staff.
Then this week, from Monday to Thursday, the event organizers hosted the live virtual games via Zoom and Facebook. (SONC's in-person competition would have taken place last weekend at UC Davis.)
"Summer Games @ Home encouraged athletes to exercise, train and compete from the safety of their homes. Athletes annually look forward to Summer Games and we were all disappointed that we couldn't gather together physically this year due to COVID-19," said Keiko Arzouman, SONC sports manager for Alameda and Contra Costa counties
"Summer Games @ Home has motivated athletes to keep training while offering a social platform to share, interact and help keep each other accountable," Arzouman added. "It has been a lot of fun to see the many videos and photos of athletes competing from their homes, the creativity of training equipment, and carrying on the spirit of Special Olympics."
The event program also included opening and closing ceremonies, award presentations and other festivities. For more information, visit www.SONC.org.
"Special Olympics has been amazing during this time with Zoom sessions, staying fit and healthy programs, and coaches webinars," King said. "All of us RADD coaches have stayed involved and active in communicating with our RADD team. We miss them just as much as they miss us."