A few weeks ago, some of our Fresno student-athletes had (what I imagine was) the utmost joy of competing at the Special Olympics Northern California Summer Games. On Friday morning, the student-athletes filed onto the buses with the rest of the Fresno delegation – which numbered 138 athletes and coaches. The group made their way north to Davis, which is just west of the state capital of Sacramento. They checked into the dorms (their home for the next three days), had dinner at the dining commons with the other athletes before heading to the UC Davis football field for Opening Ceremonies.
The best way to describe Opening Ceremonies is that it is absolutely exhilarating. Before it actually starts, music thumps, fans file into Aggie Stadium – which is dressed to the nines in Special Olympics decorations – and the athletes line up outside, awaiting their triumphant entrance. How exciting (and nerve-wracking!) it must be for these athletes to travel from the comfort of their hometowns to be with so many new faces. The emcees start the show and then the athletes walk down the same tunnel that the Division I Aggies run down before football games and onto the field, where they become the veritable stars of the show.
The athletes parade on the field to thunderous applause as they get as many high fives as possible from the law enforcement officers, who form the Wall of Honor.
The emcees proclaim the delegations’ arrivals as they proceed through a balloon arch and into the stands to enjoy the rest of the show. I had the pleasure of walking onto the field with the athletes, and the feeling amongst the athletes was nothing short of magical. Their unbridled enthusiasm was beyond moving and exciting. If that’s what it was like for an adult who wasn’t even competing, I almost can’t even comprehend what it was like for our schools athletes from Fresno.
The Fresno student-athletes competed Saturday and Sunday in track & field and aquatics, and enjoyed a dance on Saturday evening. Clad in their fire-engine red Fresno uniforms, the central valley athletes were easy to spot.
Our Fresno student-athletes get the best of both worlds because they have Special Olympics in their schools and then they compete with our general program, as well. During their three days at Davis, 148 members of the Fresno delegation joined 782 other athletes and coaches from all over NorCal. The bond shared between athletes was one of the first things one such Fresno student-athlete gushed about. See what else she had to say and more in this video interview: