LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - SpecialOlympic athletes marched into Abe Martin Stadium like champions.
"These athletes who have intellectualdisabilities prove everybody wrong. They come out here, they perform and competejust like a regular athlete," said Norman Arias, Director of FieldServices.
The games startedwith the running of the torch. Athletes were eager to get the games started,after months of preparation for track and field competitions.
"Today I'm doing the relay, shot put andthe 100-yard dash," said Mike, a Special Olympic Competitor.
"I run realhard," said Wendy, a Special Olympic Competitor.
14 teamsfrom across East Texas gathered to compete in the games.
Ben Iverson is a coach for the Tyler Roseteam, he says the games give athletes the opportunity to fit in with the restof the world.
"Itmakes them feel normal, we all want to feel special, they're already special,they just want to feel normal," said Iverson.
Competitorsof all ages get the chance to contend, bringing their a-game, year after year.
"Comeout here and win some medals and participate in sports," said Mike.
CompetitorAlan Johnny says, relays are his favorite part of the day.
"Ilike to bring the baton home," said Johnny.
Despitethe challenges they face, quitting is never an option.
"We'vegot a couple that can barely walk and they'll be out there trying to run,"said Iverson.
"Someof them are real fast, and some of them have a little challenge but they don'tever quit," said Arias.
The rewards of simply participating, last alifetime.
"Everytime they get a ribbon or a medal they wear it for the whole week, two weeks,you got to make them take it off when they take their baths, they're just sohappy to win something," said Iverson.