Saturday, July 2 2022

(Update: Addition of video and comments from parents, manager coach, and some lava bears)

More than 500 athletes compete in 19 sports at Special Olympics Games

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Bend Senior High Unified basketball team represents Team Oregon in Florida for the American Games and is expected to win a gold or silver medal Friday.

The Lava Bears won the state title earlier this year and were one of two teams chosen to compete in the national event.

They won two out of four games and won the semifinals, which launched them into the gold medal game. The team lost to Florida and Washington and won to Connecticut and Minnesota.

The team trained twice a week to prepare for the big trip.

Unified Sports is recognized as part of the OSAA State Tournament and combines Special Olympics athletes with those without intellectual disabilities.

“Last week was incredibly impactful,” said Cameron Walker’s father, Mike Walker. “Just look at all the other athletes, including the partners. I mean, a lot of kudos go to the team partners who are there to really help these people play the game and play it well and be a good sportsmanship on the pitch was really the most enjoyable part for us.”

Cameron Walkers parents went to Florida to support Cameron. They talked about what Special Olympics really means to them as parents.

Cameron Walker’s mum, Joy Walker, said: “By the time we got here – he’s beyond excited! And to see him gaining so much independence over the past week, and not needing me every minute of every day – that’s really, I think, the biggest win, like his mother for witnessing that,”

Unified partners and athletes are thrilled to be there.

“It’s about everyone we’ve met here,” Unified Partner Olive Nye said. “It was super fun, everyone was really friendly and we made a lot of friends in different teams, even the teams we compete against.

Unified Athlete Nathan Criteser said, “I’m excited to see the big cities around Orlando – that would be good too.”

“Special Olympics Oregon is amazing in the way they really promote inclusion,” said Team Oregon Unified Basketball Coach Robert Tadjiki. When you bring people with disabilities together, those without disabilities play our unified sports. Oregon has different levels of unified teams – adult teams, high school teams, even younger – middle school and elementary school teams. When you come together in a unified philosophy and a unified team. All of these amazing things are happening. All these barriers are falling.”

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