Athletes will be able to compete in events throughout May
MISSION, KS — Special Olympics Kansas athletes who have been sidelined by COVID-19 will lace up their tennis shoes and hit the outdoors to participate in the 2020 Virtual Summer Games.
In-person games were scheduled for June 5-7 in Maize, but concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and the risk to people with underlying health issues caused the games to be canceled.
“Special Olympics serves athletes with intellectual disabilities and many are in the highest at-risk level for COVID-19,” Heather Waters, SOKS representative, said. “We know our athletes want to get together and train and compete, but our No. 1 priority is keeping them safe and healthy. Having in-person games in early June is just not possible this year.”
Athletes have been sidelined since early March when state basketball competition was canceled due to COVID-19 cases and spread in Kansas.
State powerlifting competition was also canceled in April.
Athletes who participate in the virtual games will be able to choose one of six categories of competition ranging from running events to wheelchair competition. They are also able to participate in a 1-mile run and a bonus Unified Soccer Dribble event where athletes will partner, virtually, with a teammate to complete a soccer dribbling course.
All events are able to be completed at athletes’ homes with common household objects as substitutes for traditional sports equipment.
Now through May 29 athletes will train at home and then record their best times and/or results. On June 5, the original start date of the Summer Games, SOKS will host an online Opening Ceremony with videos from statewide law enforcement agencies running the ceremonial Torch Run, athletes signing the National Anthem, and athletes reciting the Special Olympics Athlete Oath.
Brent Kaiser, ARC of the Central Plains activities director, said he has not been in contact with any local athletes, but said he assumes some of the ARC's regular athletes will participate.
He expressed concerns about the athletes being able to record their own times and results.
"Anyone who has a higher need, it is going to be hard for them to complete," Kaiser said. "I think Special Olympics is doing a good thing, and they are doing a great job of trying to reach out, but at the same time we can only do so much."
The local ARC has been offering weekly online Facebook bingo. Kaiser said he has about 15 to 18 regulars who are participating in that event.
However, many of the individuals the ARC serves do not have the abilities or the access to technology to participate online, he said.
Kaiser said he thinks what the athletes will really miss is not necessarily the chance to compete in athletics, but to see all of their friends at the event.
"We are going to do as much as we can here to keep everyone engaged," he said.
Three other virtual events will take place between June 5 and 7 online: a talent show, trivia tournament and dance party featuring Kansas City DJ Brian B. Shynin from Hot 103 Jamz.
Results from the athlete’s competition will be divisioned by age, gender and ability level and awards will be announced online from June 5 to 7 as well.
For more information about Summer Games visit ksso.org/virtual-summer-games/.