Special Olympics Summer Games draw 1,400 athletes to Cessna Stadium

Robert Murphy stood Saturday with a handful of medals strewn around his neck.

"These are from bicycling," Murphy said. "Of course, that's my favorite."

Murphy, 65, of Emporia has been participating in the Kansas Special Olympics Summer Games for 35 of its 40 years and is a member of the Kansas Special Olympics Hall of Fame.

"He does cycling, shot put, walking, most all of the events," said Shawn Rumold, coach of the Emporia Express, of which Murphy is a member.

The Express is one of three teams from Emporia and counted itself among the 1,417 athletes, 420 coaches and more than 2,500 volunteers participating this weekend at Wichita State University.

Murphy cooled off in the shade of Cessna Stadium, one of one of about 25 athletes who came with the Express.

Murphy said he stays in shape delivering the Emporia Gazette newspaper.

"I walk all over downtown, and I walk really fast," he said.

He's not the oldest member of the team.

"We have athletes from 8 to 78 years old," said Rumold, who has been a coach for 14 years.

Each of the athletes must compete in a regional to make the state competition, said Donna Zimmerman, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Kansas Special Olympics.

This weekend's state event culminates the summer season with events including track and field, power-lifting, cycling, swimming, gymnastics and tennis. The games are in their 33rd year in Wichita.

Murphy remembers first competing in the games at the Parsons State Hospital.

There were only 300 athletes the first year, Zimmerman said.

Events continue at 8 a.m. Sunday with a closing ceremony, followed by track and field events until 1:30 p.m.