Two students from the Tahoma School District are competing in the 50th Special Olympics USA, which will be hosted in Seattle July 1-6.
The Special Olympics take place every four years, just like the regular Olympic games.
“They have to qualify and then when they compete they have the strict rules,” said Karen Smejkal, the Special Olympics coordinator of the Tahoma School District.
For example, the parents of the athletes only have visitation rights under security watch and the athletes are housed in hotels paid for by the Special Olympics USA organization, according to Smejkal.
According to the Special Olympics website, there will be 14 sports offered for competition including: swimming, flag football, soccer, golf and track and field.
The website also said there is expected to be about 70,000 spectators and 10,000 family members to attend the Special Olympics this year.
Games will be hosted at the University of Washington, King County Aquatic Center, Seattle University and Celebration Park. The website went on to say this is the biggest sporting event to happen in Seattle in 25 years.
“Because there are so many athletes, they will be competing at various locations,” Smejkal said.
On Jan. 11, there was an announcement made about the Special Olympics being hosted in Seattle. The announcement took place at Westlake Center Mall in downtown Seattle.
Athletes met at the Washington Athletics Club to get their Washington team attire, including a shirt and an official team jacket, according to Smejkal.
Then all 230 of the athletes and their coaches marched down the streets of Seattle in the pouring rain, following a marching band to the mall where the Seattle mayor, sponsors and Special Olympic coordinators announced each team, and each coach and athlete by name, among many Seattle citizens who decided to attend the rainy celebration.
In total, there will be about 3,500 athletes from all around the United States to compete in this year’s Special Olympics, the website said.
Meet the Athletes from Tahoma
Justin Olds, 19, is currently enrolled in the Transition Program at Tahoma High School, which is the special education program for 18-21 year olds.
During his time at Tahoma, he has participated in many sports including track and field, softball, swimming, golf and flag football, according to his parents.
They also said he competed in the Special Olympics in 2013 and received the Sportsmanship Award.
In 2017, Olds won gold medals in the state games for swimming, golf and flag football.
He qualified for the Olympic games in swimming and is aiming for gold again.
Miguel McCoy is an 18-year-old senior at Tahoma High School and started to participate in the Special Olympics when he was 8 years old, according to his parents.
At this time, the Special Olympics has become a primary activity in McCoy’s life, along with sports in general.
According to his parents, over the years he has participated in multiple sports including track, basketball, swimming, softball, bowling and golf.
For the 2018 Special Olympics, McCoy will be competing for gold in Golf.
This too isn’t his first go at the Olympics. In 2015 he won Special Olympics Sportsmanship Award.
In 2017, his mom said he won gold in track, basketball and golf, qualifying him for the Special Olympics.