JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. (June 26, 2013) -- The athletes paraded through the Joint Base Lewis-McChord hangar all the way to the front where the I Corps commander greeted them. Months of hard work, training and determination brought them to where they all stand now: The opening ceremony of the 2013 Special Olympic Summer Games.

"We're very, very proud to be able to be here to host the Special Olympics," said Lt. Gen. Robert Brown on behalf of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which has been the primary competition site of the summer games for more than four decades. "It goes back 40 years, and we hope it's 40 more and then beyond because we just love this great experience."

The beginning of the games kicked off bright and early June 1 at Cowan Stadium. What normally is filled with Soldiers conducting physical training was now the grounds for all those ready to reach for the gold.

Hundreds of athletes geared up, pinned their numbers to their chests, laced up their shoes and hit the track ready to compete.

Watching the determination, the joy and the pride of the athletes when they accomplish what they set out to do is what's most memorable about the Summer Games, said David Gross, a coach with the JBLM Tigers.

"You can't come out here and observe and not be moved," he said.

June 15 was a day filled with sunshine and the competitors welcomed the lull in the rain. The track was dry and the officials aimed their starting pistols high into the sky. Runners took to their positions and raced off at the loud bang of the gun. Family members and coaches lined the crowd, cheering their athletes on.

"You can't stop," said Patrick Gardner, two-time Special Olympics competitor out of Bremerton, Wash. "Your body wants to keep moving, so you just keep going and going."

Athletes competed in many track-and-field events throughout the weekend, including shot put, hurdles, the 100-meter dash and the long jump. Some events are not as well known, and are unique to the Special Olympics, such as the non-motorized and motorized wheelchair race, softball throw, and assisted walk.

When the last races were finished and the last medals handed out, the athletes were left with the Special Olympics motto: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt."

Page last updated Wed June 26th, 2013 at 00:00