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Special Olympics: Strong showing for local athletes at state meet
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Forsyth County News

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Forsyth County was well represented during the recent Special Olympics Georgia Summer Games at Emory University in Decatur.

A group of about 60 local athletes attended the games, which featured more than 1,500 special athletes and coaches from around the state competing in several different sport divisions.

Local athletes took part in table tennis, aquatics and track and field events between May 17-19.

Susan Darlington, transition coordinator for the Forsyth County school system, said competing in the state games is always a beneficial experience for the athletes.

“If they want to participate in the state games, we ask them to commit to practice schedules,” she said. “We see [going to the state games] as something they’ve earned. You know, they build that skill.

“Many of them, when they first come to practices they don’t realize what they can do. And every year they see they’re pace quicken and their confidence is just amazing. That’s going to transfer not only in the sport, but also in just their daily living in the way they communicate with people and take pride in what they’ve been doing.”

Unlike the local spring games, which are held annually at Forsyth Central High School for all special education students in the public school system, both students and adults can take part in the state games.

Darlington said this year’s competition saw a “good mixture” of students and adults 22 and older.

Another difference between the state and local games is the requirements to compete.

According to Darlington, athletes wishing to take part in the state games must commit to at least eight practice sessions with a Special Olympics Georgia-certified coach.

Dave Phillips, one of those coaches and the father of an adult athlete, Brian, said he always enjoys attending the state games.

“There’s a lot energy,” he said. “There’s a lot of volunteers that come from different businesses … Emory does a fantastic job and it’s very, very well run.”

He added that Forsyth athletes made a strong showing at the event, with most earning multiple medals or ribbons.

“To be biased, we were the cream of the crop,” he said. “I know we had more athletes [competing] than most of the other groups and I think we had more medals than any other organization.”

Darlington added that the local athletes have a good reputation at the state games.

“They’re just overall good people,” she said. “When we take them to the state games … when people see those Forsyth County logos, they know that these are people that have good sportsmanship, the coaches are respectful.

“We cheer on other athletes and our athletes cheer on other teams. It’s just good camaraderie when we’re out there. Everybody’s uplifting everybody else.”

Phillips said the state games help both the athletes and coaches learn about themselves.

“Sometimes you just think you’re on your on in your own little world and you think you’re the only one who has these challenges,” he said. “But then you get to meet others and see how they are able to work through their athletes’ challenges and it’s just so warm to be down there.”

As for the athletes, the state games are about more than just gold and silver medals. 

“They just have such a good time and they really have such a camaraderie and good sportsmanship among all of them,” he said. “Even if an athlete comes in fifth place and gets a ribbon … it’s amazing to see how the athlete gets so excited with it. It really makes you feel good.”