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Closing ceremonies

July 28, 2010

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Fefe Dobson gets athletes, coaches, officials and fans on their feet at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games closing ceremonies.

Photo by: Kaitlyn Burke, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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David Steffan performs and gets spectators moving at the closing ceremonies.

Photo by: Kaitlyn Burke, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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The Oregon soccer team watches the flag being lowered as the USA National Games come to an end.

Photo by: Kaitlyn Burke, University of Nebraska- Lincoln

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First Lady of Nebraska, Sally Ganem, addresses the crowd along with members of Project UNIFY.

Photo by: Kaitlyn Burke, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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LaShell Griffin performs as the crowd dances with red glow sticks.

Photo by: Kaitlyn Burke, University of Nebraska-Lincoln



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Athletes head home

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Team Vermont prepares to head home from the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

The Cessna Airlift (Click here to see all our coverage) began at 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning and continued through 4:30 p.m. with more than 170 Cessna Citation aircraft flying roughly 800 Special Olympics athletes and their coaches to their homes across the country. It was the final send-off event of the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games in Lincoln, Neb.

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A Cessna Citation jet takes off from the Lincoln Airport carrying Special Olympic athletes as part of the Cessna Airlift.

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Florida Special Olympics athletes check in for their flight home. Florida was the first team to leave Saturday morning.

Photos by Jerry Renaud begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Video by Barney McCoy, University of Nebraska-Lincoln



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Fraizer family making an impact

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Richard Frazier, Ronnia Frazier, Eli Frazier- North Carolina

Photo and story by: Kaitlyn Burke, University of Nebraska- Lincoln

Frazier Family Making an Impact

The Frazier family came from halfway across the country to volunteer at the power lifting venue for the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Frazier family’s passion for the Special Olympics began over 20 years ago when Richard and Ronnia met in college. “We got involved with Special Olympics in college in North Carolina. The college promoted the event and so we began volunteering. My husband then took a job that required him to work at the State Games in Greenville and then it all snowballed from there,” Ronnia said.

That snowball has only gotten bigger and a lot has changed since their first experience at the State Games in North Carolina. Richard has been the technical delegate for power lifting at the regional, state, national and international level. In addition to working regional and state levels, Richard was the technical delegate for the inaugural USA National Games in Ames, Iowa and worked internationally for the Dublin, Ireland, Shanghai, China and next year’s Athens, Greece Special Olympics world games. His wife Ronnia and their son, Eli travel with him and volunteer as officials for the power lifting competitions. Eli started getting involved with Special Olympics five years ago, “When I was younger my parents got me started. I was the tag along, but I fell in love with it and just keep coming back for more,” expressed Eli.

For the Frazier family it isn’t about travel or the praise of other people. Rather it is about the athletes and what they do. With a tear in her eye Ronnia stated, “It’s the spirit. It’s the spirit of love, teamwork and everybody coming together; nobody’s grouchy, everyone is happy and everyone comes together, it’s beautiful, it’s a yes I can attitude.” Richard noted that, “We enjoy what we do here. We always feel great because once you experience the enjoyment of the athletes it’s something that will always be near and dear to my heart. I enjoy working with the athletes, coaches and other workers and volunteers.”

The Fraziers are a unique and inspiring family. Instead of having a family trip to Hawaii or California, they spend their vacations working and volunteering for the Special Olympics. “It feels very good to work together as a family,” Richard said, “We do lots of things together, but all of us working together for the same goal and same purpose is really meaningful to me.”

“This truly makes you appreciate what you have” Ronnia describes. “Sometimes it’s so easy to say I can’t do this or maybe I don’t want to get up in the morning, but when you look at somebody who has to put fourth so much more effort, and then you do too. My experience with Special Olympics has changed my life.”



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First Special Olympics Wyoming power lifter competes in Games

July 27, 2010

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Coleman enters stage before competing in the bench press event held at Kimball Hall.

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Coleman poses with his coach in between power lifting events on Thursday.

Photos and story by: Alanna Nunn, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

He’s a John Wayne fan and likes to watch baseball. He works at Village Inn in Casper, Wyoming and has done so for the past 20 years. He’s 67 years old and a power lifter in the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

Fred Coleman began his power lifting career in 2004 when the Special Olympics introduced the sport to the state of Wyoming. It was then that Fred became the first Special Olympics power lifting athlete in his state.

Coleman has participated in the Special Olympics for over 30 years. Aside from power lifting, he also competes in cross country skiing during the Special Olympics Winter Games. He has been training for the power lifting competition for about 16 weeks, and was fully prepared coming into the USA National Games. When asked what his favorite part about the event was, Coleman replied, “It would have to be the dead lift.”

Coleman says he has enjoyed a lot of things about his trip to Nebraska. He competed in the bench press and dead lift competitions on Thursday. The power lifting events were held at Kimball Hall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.



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Powerlifting — 7/25 PM session

Alabama power lifter with visual impairment takes home four golds

Video by Balsam Ali, UNL

Powerlifting event special for all involved

By Balsam Ali

After the weights were put away and the medals awarded, all that remained for the volunteers and officials involved with Thursday’s powerlifting competition were happy memories.

For some, that’s more than enough.

“It was definitely worth it just got to get be on stage and experience those moments with them,” said volunteer Sarah Wick. “Just feeling the excitement when they made their lifts made it something I will never forget.”

While the powerlifting event at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games is driven by the performance of the athlete, the success of the event relies on the efforts of a number of volunteers. And it isn’t just those on stage helping with the competition. It’s the people backstage supervising the athletes, and the greeters in the family lounge serving water and getting to know the athletes families.

Wick, who spots the athletes in their lift attempts, said overall it’s a special event for all involved.

“No matter what you are doing it’s been a special personal experience,” Wick said. “Just getting to meet these athletes is an experience in itself, and knowing we are helping to keep the event running makes you proud of the time and energy put in.”

In addition to the competition, volunteers have also found enjoyment in the nightly award ceremonies. Volunteers and significant contributors to the games dole out the medals as an announcer reads off the names to a soundtrack of inspiring music. Even celebrities like former American Idol contestant Michael Sarver made a trip to the venue to hand out awards to the athletes.

The emotional atmosphere of the medal ceremony is the reason Wick said she helped out with the event. She witnessed the medal ceremony the day before she was scheduled and said she decided to stick around and help out because it was such a moving experience.

“Seeing them posing on stage and dancing in celebration is an emotional moment,” Wick said. “It made the work more than worth the time.”

Teamwork

Video and photos by Balsam Ali, UNL

Powering Through: The Story of Matt Jacobson

Video by Pat Radigan, UNL



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Twins Take Bronze

July 26, 2010

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Photo and Story by Chelsey Wahlstrom University of Nebraska LincolnEmily

For Erin and , softball is a family affair. At age 28 the identical twins from Sioux Falls, South Dakota won the bronze medal in Division 3 softball at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games. For Erin and Emily, the USA National Gamers were a first. In 1999, both traveled to North Carolina for the World Games.

“That was an incredible experience for them,” father Pat Gustaf said of the World Games, “So we were really looking forward to this knowing that this would be equally as incredible.”

The South Dakota softball team comes from all four corners of the state and had never played together as a team before the Games.

“The athletes are just playing great as a team. It’s been one big family,” Coach Todd Bradwisch said.

Alternating the right fielder position, the Gustaf sisters say they work well together.

“We get along and if we don’t then we just stick it out,” Erin said.

“Erin and Emily are magnificent. They are identical twins but they’re so different in personalities. One bats left and one bats right. They’re a lot of fun. I wish I had a lot more sets of twins just like them,” Bradwisch said.

The twins have been competing in the Special Olympics for 15 years in more than just softball. They have also been a part of the bowling, basketball, track and field, and swimming teams.



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Full of energy, Games end fittingly

July 24, 2010

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Members of Team Minnesota get pumped before the ceremonies.

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

PJ Scott of Small Change performs at the closing ceremonies for the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Neb.

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Payton Scott of Small Change

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Athletes carry the Special Olympics flag off the stage.

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Members of Team Nebraska await the start of the ceremonies.

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The stage set before the ceremonies.

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Members of Project UNIFY address the crowd. Throughout the night, they encouraged the crowd to get involved in acting towards equality for the intellectually disabled.

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

LaShell Griffin performs during the closing ceremonies. Griffin also sang the national anthem.

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Kristinia DeBarge performs during the ceremonies.

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

DeBarge, like Small Change, Griffin and Fefe Dobson, performed multiple times throughout the evening.

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Photo by Emily Walkenhorst, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Tennessee Special Olympics Athletes dance to music by Kristinia DeBarge following the ceremonies.



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One for Oregon

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Marcus Scheer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

On Friday, one unified soccer team made a goal that sent the players, coaches and fans into pure elation. The goal didn’t win a gold medal. It didn’t even win the game.

Yet for one team from Sutherland, Ore., this goal was just as sweet. The team had not scored a goal throughout the entire regional, state and national competition.

In the team’s fifth game at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games, one ball changed everything. In the first half between Oregon and South Carolina, Brittany Thompson received a pass from her teammate.

She dribbled toward the goal. Past the last defender. And shot.

The ball zipped by the goalie into the yellow net.

Hands rose into the air. High fives erupted everywhere. Players, coaches, fans, even volunteers cheered. While most of the action was on the championship fields, Oregon was on the top of the world at field six.

Now, they could celebrate more than new friends, top-notch competition and state recognition. They could finally say they scored a goal.

“Even though we didn’t win, we got that goal. And every game was close,” said head coach Matt Parrish. “We always had the chance to win.”

“That was the monkey off our back,” said assistant coach Jill Fummerton.

“That makes it fun,” Parrish said. And in the end, it made this game one that Oregon fans will remember for a lifetime.



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Basketball Awards Ceremony

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Nebraska Red pause for the fans after receiving the medals on Friday, July 23 at Southeast Lincoln High School, Lincoln NE. Photo by Farooq Baloch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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Indiana respond to the crowd roar after receiving the awards on Friday, July 23 at Southeast Lincoln High School, Lincoln NE. Photo by Farooq Baloch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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Team Kentucky celebrates after receiving their awards on Friday, July 23 at Southeast Lincoln High School, Lincoln NE. Photo by Farooq Baloch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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Mark Levien of Iowa receives his award on Friday, July 23 at Southeast Lincoln High School, Lincoln NE. Photo by Farooq Baloch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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Michelle McIntosh of Nebraska Black receives her award on Friday, July 23 at Southeast Lincoln High School, Lincoln NE. Photo by Farooq Baloch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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Mississippi players cheer at the fans after receiving the awards on Friday, July 23 at Southeast Lincoln High School, Lincoln NE. Photo by Farooq Baloch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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Iowa celebrate after receiving the awards on Friday, July 23 at Southeast Lincoln High School, Lincoln NE. Photo by Farooq Baloch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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Latashia Doss of Iowa punches in the air as Dawn Meyers looks on after receiving their awards on Friday, July 23 at Southeast Lincoln High School, Lincoln NE. Photo by Farooq Baloch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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Darrius Roberts of Missouri Green leans forward to receive his award on Friday, July 23 at Southeast Lincoln High School, Lincoln NE. Photo by Farooq Baloch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.



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Kickin’ Finals

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Marcos Tapia (#7), Jose Uribe (center, #1) and James Vanderbrink (#8) head to the podium to collect the gold medal for Team Nebraska in unified soccer at the Ethel S. Abbott Sports Complex on July 23, 2010. Nebraska defeated Oklahoma in extra time, 5-3.

Photo: Marcus Scheer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
For more photos by Marcus, check out his Flickr page.

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Arkansas coaches celebrate their win over Texas on July 23, 2010.

Photo: Marcus Scheer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
For more photos by Marcus, check out his Flickr page.

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Team Oregon rallies around Brittany Thompson (center) after she scored the team’s first goal at the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games on July 23, 2010.

Photo: Marcus Scheer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
For more photos by Marcus, check out his Flickr page.

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Team Oregon creates a tunnel for Team South Carolina after their game on July 23, 2010.

Photo: Marcus Scheer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
For more photos by Marcus, check out his Flickr page.

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Edson R. Irineo (#4) dribbles past a Team Oklahoma defender in unified soccer. Nebraska won the game to take the gold medal.

Photo: Marcus Scheer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
For more photos by Marcus, check out his Flickr page.

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Intense heat and humidity cuts one player’s celebration short after Team Nebraska defeated Team Oklahoma to win the gold medal match.

Photo: Marcus Scheer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
For more photos by Marcus, check out his Flickr page.

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Jose Uribe (left) and Humberto Tapia (#3) fall after colliding with members of Team Oklahoma.

Photo: Marcus Scheer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
For more photos by Marcus, check out his Flickr page.

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Edson R. Irineo (#4) reacts to his goal for Team Nebraska Unified Soccer against Oklahoma in the gold medal match.

Photo: Marcus Scheer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
For more photos by Marcus, check out his Flickr page.



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