Special Olympian Tyler Chambers deadlifts 385 pounds during the powerlifting portion of the 2022 South Carolina Special Olympics held on Fort Jackson May 6-8. (Photo Credit: Robert Timmons)

We’re Back: Special Olympics returns to Jackson

By Robert Timmons, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

The Special Olympics of South Carolina’s Summer Games returned to Fort Jackson May 6-8 after a COVID-induced hiatus.

“It’s been three years because of COVID that we have been able to have summer games,” said Barbara Oswald, vice president of programs for Special Olympics, South Carolina. “So we’re very excited to be back.”

More than 500 competitors arrived on Fort Jackson May 6 for the opening ceremonies and to compete in various sporting events May 7.

The energy of competitors was high, and “they have been back training this spring in their different sports and they are just so excited,” Oswald added. They were exhilarated, “not only to compete, but to see people that they know from across the state and to reconnect with the Special Olympics community.”

Erin Coats, a competitor in Bocce, and her mother Nadene said they were thrilled to be back. Bocce is an ancient game where competitors earn points by rolling a ball closest to a “jack” or small ball.

“We are so excited to be back out here to play Bocce,” Nadene said. “With COVID everything was put on hold for a while, so we’re excited to be back out here.”

Erin and Nadene play tennis together and bowl together in the Special Olympics. Erin is also an equestrian ride with Special Olympics as well.

The mission of the Special Olympics South Carolina is to foster inclusion and provide year-round training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type athletic events for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

“It’s about celebrating each other’s gifts and differences,” she added.

Nadene said the Special Olympics is a “great program” because it focuses not only sports but the athlete’s overall health.

“They concentrate on the athlete’s health,” she said, “they concentrate on their social well-being. They concentrate on unifying people with and without disabilities. People don’t realize how broad Special Olympics really is … It’s not just competition. It is socialization and health.”

Despite the threat of inclement weather spirits were high and when the weather passed Fort Jackson by the game went on without a hitch, she said.

“You know its crazy,” Oswald said. “The weather got nuts for a little bit, but then it all cleared out. It was beautiful and just in time for the torch” to arrive on post for the ceremony at the Solomon Center.

The Special Olympics held a variety of events across the Midlands with the opening and closing ceremonies, softball, bocce, powerlifting, bowling and swimming taking place on Fort Jackson.