Athletes off to Special Olympic Summer Games

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Athletes talked excitedly to one another as they loaded their bags on a bus parked behind Summer Street Industries Friday at noon.

Michelle Zugay, prepares to get on a bus for the Special Olympics summer games in Antigonish.

They were bound for the Special Olympics Summer Games which are being hosted in Antigonish this weekend.

“Every time we leave for summer or winter (games) it’s always excitement,” said assistant ball coach Derek Borden. “On Sunday everyone’s pretty tired.”

It’s a huge event and a highlight of the year for the Special Olympics sports teams. An estimated 645 athletes, as well as 170 coaches and mission staff will be attending the games from across Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

“This is it; this is our big moment, this is what we’ve spent the last number of months working very hard on,” said Games chair Dianne MacDonald. “It’s something our athletes have been working for all year, training hard, reaching this point. We’re ready to make sure they have a wonderful time.”

Competitions began Friday evening and will continue until late Sunday morning. Athletes will compete in track and field, soccer, bocce, golf, basketball, softball, swimming and bowling. MacDonald says they would love to see the stands full with fans cheering on Special Olympians at the opening ceremonies and at the competitions.

Pictou County athletes will be competition in softball, swimming, bowling and track and field.

Derek Saunders, who has been a participant for the last 13 years, was excited to be taking part in the softball again this year.

“We’ve got a stronger team this year. We’ve got a few new athletes on the team,” he said.

Eric Redmond was looking forward to competing with the bowling team.

“I’m going to have fun,” he said.

St. FX University will be the main venue for the games, hosting track and field, soccer,

basketball and swimming. Bowling will be held at Pinns Bowling Centre, softball will

be hosted by Dr. J. H. Gillis Regional High School and golf will take place at the

Antigonish Golf and Country Club.

MacDonald says athletes are excited about the games.

“When you get the word as an athlete that you’ve been picked to go the provincial games, it is the highlight of the year,” MacDonald said. “For a lot of our athletes, it’s an opportunity to do social networking with people that they don’t get to see very often. It’s an opportunity to show the skills that they’ve worked on over the year and how they’ve improved. It’s a wonderful weekend for people to highlight the best of themselves.”

Organizations: Special Olympics, FX University, Pinns Bowling Centre J. H. Gillis Regional High School

Geographic location: Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island Pictou County

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