Sixteen Little City athletes won more than 20 medals at the Illinois Special Olympics Summer Games, marking a successful return to the showcase event for the first time since 2019.
Familiar faces led the way as both Kevin M. and Jimmy S. won four medals each in powerlifting while newcomer Ryan Y. was one of the youngest competitors to medal, winning gold in the softball throw and silver in the 100-meter dash. Other gold medalists included Syed, Mark, Jodi and Sheldon.
Eli Martinez, recreational therapist and a Special Olympics coach, said it was a great event for her first time down state with the team. “Everyone had a lot of fun and competed really well,” Eli said.
As it was the first time in two years athletes were able to participate, the atmosphere was celebratory all weekend long. Coach Jacob Blakey said the moments and events happening off the field were just as important as what happened in competition because it gave athletes from around the state a chance to socialize and be together.
From waving at crowds in the opening ceremony to enjoying a block party dance in the evening, Jacob said the team was just happy to participate in the Summer Games again after the two-year break.
“It was a wonderful experience, and everyone was just really excited to be there,” Jacob said. “It was almost like a little vacation for them, but you could see how serious they still took the competition. Everyone was still there to win.”