Athletes win big at this year's Special Olympics

BRISTOL, Va. - Local athletes were dashing for the finish line in this year's Special Olympics Spring Games.

Nine Southwest Virginia counties, along with Bristol and Norton were competing. We caught up with athletes who say they've grown up competing and hope a win this year will take them to Richmond for the State Games.

Every Olympic event is steeped in tradition, there's the torch lighting and then let the games begin.

More than 100 athletes from across Southwest Virginia competed Saturday at John Battle High School in this year's Special Olympics Spring Games.

Athletes competed in running, jumping, and softball throwing categories. "You throw it [softball] up high and you get three tries," said athlete Dawn Baker.

With any sport, practice makes perfect and these athletes are no exception. They train all year with coaches. "Running track and field, we've practiced several times a week at our school and they have improved greatly from the first time that we started until now," said coach Lora Kiser.

More than 150 volunteers cheered athletes of all ages and abilities. "Special Olympics is all about celebrating the athletes and letting them experience joy and pride," added Kiser.

Amanda Lawson is competing in softball throwing for a second year in a row and hopes for another first-place ribbon, "It doesn't matter if you win or lose. You always have to have sportsmanship."

Everyone goes home a winner with either a blue, red, or bronze ribbon.

Some athletes say they feel like a hero simply wearing a ribbon. "I did this for my favorite person, my mom. She's not feeling well so I'm going to take it [first-place ribbon] to her," said athlete Jamie Hartsock.

Officials tell us next month, athletes will compete in a Special Olympics tennis competition.

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