Up North: Special Olympics athletes hit the lanes in Duluth
With winter weather nearing, indoor sports are becoming more populated. This past weekend, the Incline Station Bowling Center in Duluth was full of bowlers, with some high level competition between the lanes.
Over 300 athletes coming from as far as two hours away from Duluth gathered in the Incline Station Bowling Center for the Special Olympics state event.
The event saw nine different teams hit the lanes between Saturday and Sunday for multiple competitive matchups. Bowling is one of 16 official Special Olympics sports, and in Minnesota, eight different locations held Special Olympics athletes.
“This opportunity for all the spectators to be in the back cheering them on and all the other athletes and their teammates alongside them is a pretty awesome opportunity,” said John Weeding, a Sports and Outreach Coordinator for the Minnesota Special Olympics. “A lot of them are very passionate and competitive with it, so to have this opportunity for them is pretty awesome.”
Each session started with a players pledge; “Let me win, but if I can’t win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
The pledge was followed by a five minute practice round. Then, it was game on, as every lane had two matches to determine the winner, however, it wasn’t necessarily about the score.
“It’s so fun to watch them compete,” said Dawn Foster, a coach of the Aitkin bowling team. “They’re so incredibly excited about it and they’re so happy, or they run off and go, ‘I got this score’, or, ‘did you see I got a strike?’ It’s such a big deal for them that they get so excited about it and it makes them so happy.”
“Being able to have that with their competitive edge really shows some of the personalities and really puts it all in perspective on why we’re here and what it’s all about,” said Weeding.
Coming in 2024 will be a recreational league, where athletes and teams can sign up for a three month season to keep their skills sharp.