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USD hosts South Dakota Special Olympics Summer Games

Shot Put podium qualifiers in 2024 Special Olympics Summer Games.
Zadya Abbott
Shot Put podium qualifiers in 2024 Special Olympics Summer Games.

Hundreds of athletes with intellectual disabilities competed in the Special Olympics Summer Games at the University of South Dakota campus in Vermillion.

The state summer games have occurred every year since 1968 and feature competitive sports like soccer, volleyball, track and field, powerlifting and swimming.

Organizers say the mission of Special Olympics is to provide experience and training in sports for those age 8 and up with intellectual disabilities.

Fifty-six years ago, 125 athletes took part in the first summer games. Last weekend, roughly 600 athletes, 100 coaches and 1,000 spectators occupied the USD campus.

Missy Hill has been coaching the Aberdeen Hub City Express Olympic team for over a decade. The team is made up of 22 adults, some of whom have competed on the national level. Hill said her team works well together.

“We participate in sports almost all year round. We do bowling, basketball track and field, swim, bocce in the summer. So, they are pretty much together 10 out of the 12 months, training or doing competition,” said Hill. “All of them have been with me, some of them 12 to 14 years I’ve been their coach, through their careers so it’s more like a family for our team than just a team.”

Cathy Grubb is the Sports Director for SD Special Olympics. Grubb said Special Olympics highlights the significance of inclusion.

“I think the biggest thing is the more we’re different the more we’re the same. And that includes in the athletic field. These athletes give everything they have and yet they celebrate the person running next to them as well. They want to win but they celebrate everybody,” said Grubb.

The next event for Special Olympics is competitive equestrian on July 14-16.

Zadya Abbott (she/her/hers) is a senior at the University of South Dakota studying Media and Journalism with a minor in Women and Gender Sexuality Studies. She is native to the southeastern corner of South Dakota. Zadya regards the journalism profession as one of noble service meant to objectively provide the public with information of interest.