More than 1,300 athletes will travel to Wichita this weekend to compete in the 45th annual Special Olympics Kansas Summer Games.
Teams of athletes ranging from 8 to 90 years old will compete in a variety of events, including tennis, track and field, aquatics and cycling. All events will be at Wichita State University.
Before the statewide event, regions across the state hosted smaller competitions.
“Athletes compete during the spring, so after that we know times, how fast they swim, how high they jump, and then we can arrange it so they’re competing at a similar level,” said Donna Zimmerman, a spokeswoman for Special Olympics Kansas.
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The Summer Games will officially begin at the opening ceremony at Cessna Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday. The ceremony also includes the final leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
During the past few months, more than 900 law enforcement officers have carried the “Flame of Hope” through 35 counties across the state to raise both funds and awareness of Special Olympics.
“Torch runs happen in all four corners of the state and the four torches will come together at City Hall symbolizing the state coming together,” Zimmerman said. “Then one torch will be brought to Cessna for the opening ceremony.”
The run began in Wichita in 1981 and has now grown to an international program. In the past year, officers in Kansas raised more than $522,000 to support Special Olympics programs, according to Special Olympics Kansas.
“The overall goal of the torch run is to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics and athletes and what their needs are,” Zimmerman said.
“That’s what Special Olympics is all about also. Athletes come for the sports and stay for the quality of life. They become healthy and develop close friendships and skills like teamwork and discipline.”
Reach Alyssa Scott at email@example.com.