Oklahoma Special Olympics Winter Games come to a close, athletes compete for basketball medals

NORMAN, Okla. - After days filled with aquatics, bowling and volleyball, Oklahoma Special Olympics athletes took to the basketball court to compete for more medals.

Organizers say more than 10,000 participants, along with parents, coaches, friends and family came to The University of Oklahoma campus in Norman for this weekend's 18th annual Winter Games.

Today teams played basketball starting at 9 a.m., across eight courts.

Basketball is a game filled with a lot of shots. Some go in. Some don't. But at the Special Olympics, make or miss, it doesn't matter. The games are more about letting the athletes express themselves and working as a team.

"Special Olympics is a lot of fun? Isn't it?," Ron Boland asked one of his players between quarters. The player agreed with excitement.

Boland is a parent and coach with Team Tulsa.

"They have blossomed. They have grown," Boland said. "They have come out of their shell. We have helped them with their social skills and being able to play a team sport.'

The athletes on Team Tulsa are quick to pass the ball and see not a teammate, but a friend succeed. They make a lot of friends at the Special Olympics during the 3-day event.

"A lot of friends," Team Tulsa athlete Kristie Wainright said. "A whole lot. At the dances too. I make a lot of friends as the dances too."

The Special Olympics also gives families time to bond. Such as Brett, No. 10 on Team Tulsa, and his dad, Coach Ron.

"He calls me Coach Ron and this and everything else," Boland said. "He writes out a detailed schedule of what we are going to be doing from day one. Thursday at 8:00 a.m. we are going to do this. At 10 a.m. we are going to do this."

So even though Team Tulsa missed a lot of shots in its first game, it also made enough to come away with a victory. More importantly they learned to play as a team, which is what the Special Olympics truly about.

Several athletes said they're already looking toward this summer's games in Stillwater. The 45th annual Oklahoma Special Olympics Summer Games run from May 14-16.


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