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1 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fort Jackson Commanding General Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaelis and James Roach an athlete from Area 13 (Oconee, Pickens, S.C.) watch as another competitor rolls a ball during the Masters Bocce event May 7 at Hilton Field. Special athletes from across the state gathered on post for the annual games. The past two years were not held due to the pandemic. (Photo Credit: Robert Timmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Special Olympian Tyler Chambers deadlifts 385 pounds during the powerlifting portion of the 2022 South Carolina Special Olympics held on Fort Jackson May 6-8. (Photo Credit: Robert Timmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
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3 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Special Olympian Erin Coats and her mother Nadene, hug during a break in the action at Hilton Field during the Master's Bocce competition. The two tennis together on a unified team. (Photo Credit: Robert Timmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
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4 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A sign points the way the Special Olympics of South Carolina on Fort Jackson. (Photo Credit: Robert Timmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
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5 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Special Olympians swim at Knight Pool during the South Carolina Special Olympic Summer Games held at Fort Jackson May 6-8. (Photo Credit: Robert Timmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
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6 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A powerlifter gets his hands taped by volunteers moments before he attempted a deadlift. The South Carolina Special Olympics powerlifting competition was held at the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School on Fort Jackson May 7. (Photo Credit: Robert Timmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
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7 / 7 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Volunteers at the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School on Fort Jackson prepare weights for the powerlifting competition of the South Carolina Special Olympics May 7. Fort Jackson hosted the annual games. (Photo Credit: Robert Timmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Special Olympics of South Carolina’s Summer Games returned to Fort Jackson May 6-8 after a COVID-induced hiatus.

“It’s been three years because of COVID that we have been able to have summer games,” said Barbara Oswald, vice president of programs for Special Olympics, South Carolina. “So we’re very excited to be back.”

More than 500 competitors arrived on Fort Jackson May 6 for the opening ceremonies and to compete in various sporting events May 7.

The energy of competitors was high, and “they have been back training this spring in their different sports and they are just so excited,” Oswald added. They were exhilarated, “not only to compete, but to see people that they know from across the state and to reconnect with the Special Olympics community.”

Erin Coats, a competitor in Bocce, and her mother Nadene said they were thrilled to be back. Bocce is an ancient game where competitors earn points by rolling a ball closest to a “jack” or small ball.

“We are so excited to be back out here to play Bocce,” Nadene said. “With COVID everything was put on hold for a while, so we’re excited to be back out here.”

Erin and Nadene play tennis together and bowl together in the Special Olympics. Erin is also an equestrian ride with Special Olympics as well.

The mission of the Special Olympics South Carolina is to foster inclusion and provide year-round training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type athletic events for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

“It’s about celebrating each other’s gifts and differences,” she added.

Nadene said the Special Olympics is a “great program” because it focuses not only sports but the athlete’s overall health.

“They concentrate on the athlete’s health,” she said, “they concentrate on their social well-being. They concentrate on unifying people with and without disabilities. People don’t realize how broad Special Olympics really is … It’s not just competition. It is socialization and health.”

Despite the threat of inclement weather spirits were high and when the weather passed Fort Jackson by the game went on without a hitch, she said.

“You know its crazy,” Oswald said. “The weather got nuts for a little bit, but then it all cleared out. It was beautiful and just in time for the torch” to arrive on post for the ceremony at the Solomon Center.

The Special Olympics held a variety of events across the Midlands with the opening and closing ceremonies, softball, bocce, powerlifting, bowling and swimming taking place on Fort Jackson.