More than 1,100 Special Olympics Southern California athletes came prepared to put their best effort forward in five sports Saturday at the annual Summer Games competition at Cal State Long Beach.
Summer Games, a two-day event, features competitions in athletics (track and field), basketball, bocce, flag football and swimming. This is the first year flag football has been part of SOSC’s official sports rotation after spending 2018 in a demonstration period.
Of the five sports, track and field and swimming were the lone venues to award medals throughout the day. Basketball, bocce and flag football start its medal round competitions on Sunday.
Prior to competitions, the Games opened with a star-studded Opening Ceremonies.
Matt Iseman, the host of NBC’s hit show “American Ninja Warrior,” served as co-emcee and helped hype up the crowd and the athletes after they walked into the track venue. In addition, viral sensation Kodi Lee was the special musical guest and performed the National Anthem. Kodi, who is blind and autistic, gained national recognition last month following his audition on this season of “America’s Got Talent.”
Among the athletes in action were John Rojo, 23, a second-year track and field athlete from Whittier. On his slate for the weekend are the 100- and 200-meter races and the shotput. He said Special Olympics has “opened my mind” and allowed him to meet new people.
“My favorite part is racing against people so I can challenge them,” John said about his favorite aspects of Special Olympics.
The event cannot run without its volunteers, either.
Summer Games attracts 2,000 volunteers in various roles ranging from timekeeping and officiating to medical assistance and Fans in the Stands.
Claude White, a first-year volunteer stationed at one of the many information booths across campus, was blown away by her first experience at a Special Olympics event.
“It is impressive,” she said. “It’s quite an organization to put all of this together. It is a very friendly community. … [The athletes] are so welcoming. They seem to be happy to be here, and that’s the best thing.”
Summer Games will conclude Sunday with Day 2 action beginning at 8 a.m. The general public is welcome to attend and admission is free.