‘Everybody can play sports’: Valdosta Special Olympics returns

‘Everybody can play sports’: Valdosta Special Olympics returns
Published: Oct. 8, 2022 at 6:34 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 8, 2022 at 7:31 PM EDT
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - Close to 1,000 participants brought their game face to Valdosta for this year’s State Special Olympics. Competitors came from all over the region to compete for that sparkling gold medal but they also came to spread a message of diversity and inclusion in the community.

“Everybody can play sports,” said Anthony Hernandez, a softball competitor.

Many got a chance to show their skills in softball, cycling and bocce ball.
Many got a chance to show their skills in softball, cycling and bocce ball.(walb)

The Special Olympics Georgia made a smooth comeback this year after being canceled last year due to COVID-19. Teams went head-to-head in softball, cycling and bocce ball to show that anyone can do anything they put their mind to, even with a disability.

" Sometimes I don’t even know that myself,” said Jamie Waters, a Bocce ball competitor.

Waters has been impacted by disability all her life. Even through the challenges she faces, she tells me sports and friends keep her motivated to get through any obstacle.

Waters was one of many bocce ball competitors.
Waters was one of many bocce ball competitors.(walb)

“I grew up this way. I know who I am. And no, I’m not who people think I am,” she said. “It’s important to know that anybody can do anything. It doesn’t matter what your disability is. Just be who you are and do your best at everything you do.”

Steven Russell was one cyclist competitor who took home the gold. He said he’s experienced discrimination and unfair treatment because of his disability but he now uses events like the Special Olympics to fight against adversities.

Randall said he will continue to fight for equality in all sports by continuing to play them.
Randall said he will continue to fight for equality in all sports by continuing to play them.(walb)

“There are so many people out here that are trying to change the world to prove that kids with intellectual disabilities can do things just like with people without disabilities. That’s my goal is to prove anyone wrong,” Russell said.

For anyone with disabilities that may doubt themselves, Hernandez advises them to keep going just like he does every time he steps on a softball field.

“Never give up and live your dream and don’t listen to what people say,” he said.