U athletes come out in support of Special Olympics

by Brian Hall

Elizabeth Pierce has seen the excitement before.

As a four-year member of the Minnesota women’s swimming team, Pierce would watch before her meets as many Special Olympics athletes competed in the same pool she would swim.

“It was very exciting,” Pierce said. “It was great to see people line the edge of the pool and cheer on the athletes.”

Pierce is one of over 30 Minnesota athletes and coaches volunteering their time to the Special Olympics Minnesota Annual State Summer Games, a three-day event running through Saturday.

During the summer games, over 1,000 Special Olympics athletes will participate in gymnastics, soccer, tennis and track and field events.

Minnesota athletes, along with members of the Minnesota Vikings, Timberwolves and Thunder are taking part in the Pro Sports Booth, signing autographs, posing for pictures and interacting with Special Olympics athletes. They also present medals at the event.

“It means a lot to our athletes for them to come out; they look up to these athletes,” David Herbster, Special Events and Promotions director for Special Olympics Minnesota, said. “It shows they have a respect for our athletes.”

It’s a respect which comes from watching athletes compete in events such as the tennis ball throw and the 400-meter walk, tasks some people take for granted in their everyday lives.

The Minnesota athletes have an appreciation of their Special Olympics counterparts which stretches far beyond the playing field. They realize much can be learned about competition from the Special Olympics athletes.

“I want them to know what they are doing is important,” Peter Prudden, a sophomore football player, said. “As I watch and see their determination and commitment, I can’t help but be affected by them. It makes me want to work as hard as I can.”

Added Emily MacCormick, junior rower: “It’s awesome to see how hard they work. They deserve everybody’s support.”

Even with the success the Gopher athletes have achieved at the collegiate level of competition, with the help of the Special Olympics they are still able to reflect on where they are now and what got them there.

Volunteering at events such as the Special Olympics is one way in which they can give back.

“I have received so much from the University and others,” Karyn Stordahl, a junior on the women’s golf team, said. “It’s time I give back.”

“Our whole athletic careers have been shaped by volunteers,” Pierce said. “Whether it was our parents, coaches or whomever, they have volunteered their time to help us get to where we are. Now we can do the same.”


Brian Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]