As the U.S. Olympics theme song filled the air, athletes with autism and down syndrome took their place behind the baseline for the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics Regional Tennis Championship on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011. Also known as challengers, the athletes came ready to play, compete and win — a feat for their mind and body.
Challenger Claudia Gonzalez led the athletes in reciting the Special Olympics Motto: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Gonzalez said she felt happy to be at the tournament and particularly enjoys “going after the ball, serving, and hitting returns.” A longtime player of the sport, she added, “I like to win the games.”
Athletes came from all over the Southern California area to attend the Special Olympics competitive event. Nancy Brock, a 24-year-old challenger with Down Syndrome, came to the event from Tustin.
“This the first time we’ve come to Biola,” said Maryann Brock, longtime volunteer for Special Olympics events and mother of Nancy Brock. “We love [tennis]. It’s really part of our life. It’s our recreation for the most part.”
Many of the athletes at the event live close enough to train Monday evenings at Biola’s tennis courts, a practice time Biola's Women's Tennis Coach, Dee Henry, started in 1990 for physically disabled players. One of these students is Timothy Redmond, a challenger who has played tennis for about four years. An active person in general, Timothy said he enjoys other sports like skiing and running.
Henry hosted Saturday’s tournament along with a dozen volunteers. Olivia Hinton, one volunteer who has worked with Henry for the past four years, said that this is the second time Coach Henry has put together a Special Olympics regional tournament on her own.
Written by Elizabeth Mak, Media Relations Intern. For more information, please contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 562.777.4061.