Special Olympics going virtual for Summer Games

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While many sporting events and competitions have been canceled or put on hold this summer, Special Olympics Colorado was determined to host their Summer Games.

The non-profit took things virtual this year for the first time ever.

Special Olympics athlete Mackenzie Beauvais-Nikl has a much different training routine for this year’s soccer competition than last year.

“What the competition looks like: it’s juggling, jumping headers, shooting, and I think trick shots. And I was like, ‘how are we going to do passing if we can’t pass to someone?!’ But you have to be creative,” Beauvais-Nikl told FOX31, in Zoom interview.

A few months ago, she wasn’t sure she’d get to compete at all.

“When COVID hit, I was really sad because we had our state basketball tournament coming up. We weren’t able to do that because of COVID,” said Beauvais-Nikl.

Special Olympics Colorado has never had to cancel its Summer Games.

“Summer Games are the highlight of the year for so many,” said Special Olympics Colorado President and CEO Megan Scremin.

So staff decided to move forward with plans, starting with a virtual opening ceremony on Sunday.

The games highlight gymnastics, power lifting, track and field, swimming, and soccer. Athletes have until 4 p.m. on the day of their designated sport to complete a series of challenges.

“As an example for swimming, some of the challenges are to do flutter kicks, or to see how long you can do the plank,” said Scremin. “For soccer, we have a whole different series of challenges as well, including how many times you can get a ball into the goal.”

Beauvais-Nikl says an internet connection isn’t nearly as exciting as the personal connections she makes at the annual games.

“I was hoping I’d get to meet new teams this year for soccer. And even with my old teams that we play against, it’s always good to see them and see how good they’re doing,” she said.

She also said these tough times have made her, and other athletes, even stronger.

“Even though we’re not physically together, we’re always checking in on each other and seeing how we’re doing,” said Beauvais-Nikl.

The games typically last for three days but will be them to six days this year to accommodate the more than 1,000 athletes who sign up each year.

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