FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Just as American athletes were competing for gold, silver and bronze medals in Beijing, more than 150 children, parents and volunteers half a world away came to the main post polo field Saturday morning. The young athletes came out to compete, learn sportsmanship and have some fun at the 11th Annual Armed Services YMCA Kids Olympics.
Olympic fever brought out quite a few children to compete in the games. "They've been looking forward to it. "They've been watching the Olympics on TV so they're really excited about doing this," said Maj. Dachelle Banks, 406th Army Field Support Brigade. Banks ran alongside her children, twins Tyler and Lauren, 6, in the 25, 50 and 100 yard dash.
Lynne M. Grates, ASYMCA executive director, started the Kids Olympics 11 years ago. "I got the idea for this event when we were stationed in Germany and my kids were in Cub Scouts," said Grates. "Every year we had the Cub Scout Olympics at the Olympic Stadium in Nurenberg," she said. Since then, the event has grown each year with 119 children registered this year. This is the only ASYMCA that holds this event every year.
At the opening ceremonies, Grates talked about sportsmanship as a key element. "We tell kids up front that not everyone is going to win a medal but to be proud of what they have accomplished. One young girl who had won a few medals gave one of hers to another child who hadn't received any. That's what this is all about," said Grates.
Many parents were thrilled at a chance to watch their children compete for medals. "I think it's wonderful. It gets the kids excited. It gets the parents excited. I think it helps motivate everybody to get a little bit more involved, physically," said Vivian Mayer, wife of Staff Sgt. Bruce Mayer, XVIII Airborne Corps Special Troops Battalion. Their son, Andrew, 7, participated in the jump rope, crab walk and pushups as well as other events.
"This is great - giving the kids a chance to get out and exercise and move around instead of just having to wait for daddy or mom to get home to run out with them," said Sgt. Christopher Woodall, 37th Engineer Battalion. He cheered on his son, Zachary, 5, in the crab walk.
Grates feels exercise was also an important part of the Olympics. "With the increase in obesity of young children, we want to encourage kids to be more active. Kids don't play outside anymore. They are inside using computers. They just don't run and play. We want to show them that doing these activities is fun and will help them maintain fitness in the long run, hopefully living healthy lifestyles," she said.
The children were grouped in categories by age and gender. "We make the competition for medals very fair for all the children," said Grates. "Every child is really only competing against themselves," she said.
The ASYMCA gives out 280 first, second and third place medals in every age category in all ten events: jump rope, sit ups, push ups, crab walk, shuttle run, obstacle course, softball throw and the 25, 50 and 100 yard dash.

Page last updated Fri August 22nd, 2008 at 11:55