By MATT PARSONS/Montana State News
Local Special Olympics athletes competed recently in Bozeman and Livingston in the Big Sky Area games in anticipation of the Summer State Games, which will be May 14-17 in Billings.
The games were marked by a variety of sporting events, including traditional Olympic events like track and field and non-traditional events such as bowling and bocce.
After closing ceremonies for the area games in Bozeman, athletes will turn their attention to Billings, where more than 1,000 athletes from around the state will converge on MetraPark for four days of competition and events. Accompanying the athletes will be hundreds of coaches from 75 teams across the state, according to a press release.
“We can’t wait for Special Olympics in Billings,” said Ty Sherwood, a member of the Bozeman Flames team and Special Olympics athlete. Sherwood counts the annual State Games not only as a chance to compete in walking events, but also a place to reconnect with friends he only sees once or twice a year.
While Special Olympics is about competing, Special Olympics Montana places an emphasis on fitness, the courage to compete and the experience of competition rather than coming in first, according to their mission statement. There is also a strong social component to the games, which features dances, a carnival and a wellness event for athletes.
The State Games festivities begin in just a few days. On May 1 in Whitefish, law enforcement officers from the annual Torch Run will begin taking the “Flame of Hope,” Montana Special Olympics’ version of the Olympic Flame, around the state as part of their annual fundraiser for Montana Special Olympics, according to a press release.
Over the next two weeks the Flame of Hope will tour 16 different locations, culminating with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron and the official start of the State Games, according to the Special Olympics Montana website.
This year’s State Games motto is “I’m a part of something Special.” Highlights of the opening ceremonies include an appearance by Gov. Steve Bullock, national entertainers the Zooperstars, singing, dancing, bagpipers and magicians, according to a press release.
– Edited by Autumn Toennis and Levi Worts