'Sport in truest form'
Special Olympics get under way in Durham
Throughout the hot afternoon, more than 950 athletes competed in swimming, track and field and bocce ball events on the University of New Hampshire campus.
Many of the athletes are Special Olympics veterans who look forward to the annual event as a time to catch up with friends and to see the results of their weeks and months of training and effort.
In preparation for the extreme heat and humidity that met athletes on Friday, the Durham and UNH fire departments set up misting tents and had extra staff on hand to deal with any heat-related medical emergencies.
Dean opened the games with his favorite part of the day, a resounding, "Let the games begin," inside the cool Whittemore Center.
"All you need to do is be with these athletes out there, when the first time they couldn't run a yard, and now they run five and all have smiles on their faces," Dean said. "Everybody in the state of New Hampshire should come down and see this."
In addition to the athletics offered by the summer games, the event is also used to promote SONH's Healthy Athletes program, which provides free eye, ear, dental and general fitness screenings for athletes during the games.
Conroy said the athletes look forward to the summer games in particular because of the experience they get on the university campus — sleeping in dorms, eating together, competing on their fields and in their pool and participating in a Friday night dance open to all athletes.
In 2003, the World Summer Games were held in Dublin, Ireland, ahead of the "real" Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece in 2004.
"I think people have said Special Olympics is sport in its truest form. I don't think Special Olympics New Hampshire athletes are as focused on beating the competition as in improving themselves," Conroy said.
After a difficult few months, she said her favorite part of the day was re-uniting with old friends from all across the state.
Exeter High School senior Lindsey Hubbell, 17, has been volunteering with the same athlete for the last four years and said she will miss participating when she goes off to college in Massachusetts in the fall.
Michael Dennehy of Hopkinton has volunteered for the event before, but this year he was on the sidelines loudly cheering on his own son, Liam Dennehy, 11, in his first summer games.
For more information on all of Special Olympics New Hampshire's athletic offerings and programs, visit www.sonh.org.
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