Rockford athletes to compete in Virtual Special Olympics

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The COVID-19 pandemic has forced athletes to compete in a virtual version of the Special Olympics this year.

Instead of traditional sports like gymnastics and soccer, athletes follow virtual workouts online, participate in sign language lesson, and in competitions like the Rocket League tournament.

“Nothing can take the place of an in-person event, but just the ability to connect to our athletes, and our families, and our volunteers and our coaches,” said Senior Regional Director Tracy Hilliard. “Something brand new for Special Olympics Illinois is e-sports. There are a couple of states that are getting into e-sports.”

The games began on Tuesday and will continue through Sunday.

“Ever since the COVID-19 hit, that’s when they closed Special Olympics. I was kind of bummed. Can’t do much,” said Douglas Kuborn, who, along with several members of his family, has participated in the Special Olympics for several years.

“Last year, in 2019, in March, I went overseas to Abu Dhabi [and] came home with one gold and two silver [medals],” said Susan Kuborn. “It was a pretty exciting experience.”

The Special Olympics have had to rethink everything, including the annual Torch Run, one of the largest fundraisers they hold each year.

Rockford Police Assistant Deputy Chief Mike Dalke says he makes it a point to participate every year.

“It hits home to me, because my youngest daughter has Down syndrome,” he said. “[She’s] been involved in various Special Olympics events since she’s been little, in the Young Athletes program.”

Officers typically do the torch run, but now everyone can.

“It’s a phenomenal opportunity,” Hilliard said.

The Torch Run takes place on Friday, June 11th, and interested parties can find more information here.

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