Special athletes bowl to victory - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Special athletes bowl to victory

Joey and Shawn Willock Joey and Shawn Willock

The word 'strike' typically has a negative connotation.

However, Friday it was the magic word for more than a hundred bowlers at the Second Annual 'Strikers Classic,' a part of Special Olympics Georgia.

And they were truly some very special athletes. They bowled their way to victory and into every heart at Albany's AWF Bowl-A-Rama.

"My brother's my best friend," boasts Shawn Willock.

He and his brother Joey are as close as brothers can be. So when big-brother Shawn came to visit from Missouri, Joey was thrilled to show him his skills on the lanes.

Joey's just one of 120 athletes who bowled in the Strikers Classic. Albany Recreation and Parks puts on the tournament for all of the registered Special Olympic athletes in the state. Bowlers from Valdosta all the way to Newnan put their skills to the test.

"To see him being able to do what normal people do and not be judged among his peers, it's awesome," says Shawn.

Kristin Caso, Albany Recreation and Parks Marketing Coordinator, says that sadly, that isn't always the case.

"So many times these are people who are put down and left out, and this is the way that they are included. And, I practice with them every week, and let me assure you, they beat me just about every time."

Bowling may be popular, but it's just one of 24 sports in the Special Olympics. But these athletes think it's one of the best.

The classic is a preliminary for the statewide bowling tournament in Warner Robins next month. Phillip Ford has his eyes on the prize.

"Last year I got second place, and this year I'm going to try and get first place up there in Warner Robins," hopes Ford.

He's not alone.

"Everyone wants to go for the gold in Warner Robins!" exclaims Caso.

Shawn has full faith that his little brother will do just that.

"There's no challenge that's too big for him."

That seems to apply to all of the other athletes as well. Another reason bowling is so popular is because most of the special athletes can participate - wheelchairs and all.

The athletes have just 3 more weeks to refine their skills before the statewide tournament begins on August 19th.


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