April 22, 2004 – Special Olympics Virgin Islands chapter games will be held on May 8 at Renaissance Park, with athletes from the St. Thomas-St. John district traveling to St. Croix to participate.
Events will include power lifting, basketball clinics and 3-on-3 games, tennis clinics and games, long jumps, softball throw, 10-meter assisted race, 25-meter wheelchair race, 2-meter run, 50-meter run, 100-meter wheelchair assisted race and 200-meter races. The power lifting competition will be held at Paradise Gym in Frederiksted.
The opening ceremony is scheduled for 9 a.m. In addition to the sports events, the day's program includes lunch, entertainment, dancing and closing ceremonies.
Janice Lee, V.I. Special Olympics chapter director, oversees the area games. She has been involved in the program since 1977. "I keep thinking that after 27 years, I need to retire," she says. "But then I say, 'What am I going to say to my athletes?' They bring out the best in me!"
Special Olympics is an international organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition. There are 200 registered Special Olympians on St. Croix.
Lee sees the athletes as regular people with special needs. They "are motivated and gain a sense of pride through competition," she said. "They may have a problem, but they are smart. You need to treat them with respect. Competition and social interaction are necessary for these athletes."
The special athletes are held to international standards, Lee said. "We follow all the regular guidelines. Sometimes alterations are made to compensate for physical disabilities, but otherwise the world sports guidelines are followed."
V.I. special athletes have attended Special Olympics world games every year since 1979. Last year, a V.I. delegation went to Ireland to compete. "It was the first time the games were held outside of the U.S.," Lee said. "We came home with 17 medals and lots of ribbons."
Lee is hoping for a good turnout in the viewing stands for the May 8 games. "The St Thomas contingent will be here, and we want to show them and all our athletes our community spirit," she said.
To learn more about the Special Olympics or to volunteer, call Lee at 772-2277.
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