ROCKINGHAM — Athletes from Richmond County have high hopes for this weekend’s state-level Summer Games of the Special Olympics in Raleigh.
“We’re going to win some gold medals!” Joy Frye boldly predicted Friday afternoon as the Richmond County team prepared to leave.
The county is sending 15 athletes to compete in the games, with 10 competing in the 100-meter run or walk and the long jump, and five competing in bowling.
Theressa Smith, who coordinates the Special Olympics events in Richmond County, said the games are in “definite need” of volunteer coaches. There are seven coaches currently, though one will be moving away soon.
One of the coaches, Bill Reaves of Rockingham, who is coaching for the first time, said the more coaches they have, the more athletes they can take to the games.
“One of the things you learn when you start coaching is that [the athletes] give it all they’ve got,” Reaves said. “You hear about the Special Olympics but [their effort] doesn’t sink in until you start coaching.”
Reaves said he’s been amazed watching athletes with severe disabilities work to improve at their chosen sport, so much so that he and his girlfriend will be building a bocce ball court at her home so they can train athletes.
Smith said she will be holding a basketball and cheerleading camp this summer, though this is in the planning stages.
This is the third year that Shawn Richardson, 26, has competed at the state-level Special Olympics. He won a gold medal in doubles bowling his first year, and a bronze the next year, but said the pressure of competing at this high level has subsided this time around. He is nervous, however, about competing in singles bowling for the first time at the state games this weekend.
“It’ll be a good experience for me,” Richardson said, who’s been competing in the Special Olympics since 2012. “I really enjoy being a part of this. It gives me the opportunity to do what I’m good at, which is bowling.”
Frye is paired with Dawn Grooms for the doubles bowling competition, and said they’ve been training for the last three weeks.
“We’ve got it down to a science now,” Frey said as she high-fived Grooms.
In addition to competing this weekend, Grooms is going on to compete in the national Special Olympics U.S.A. Games in Seattle in July, where she will compete in bocce ball. North Carolina will be sending 61 athletes to Seattle.
“Let the games begin!” Grooms said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]