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Oklahoma's Summer Olympics makes Stillwater the happiest place on Earth

Participants of the 44th annual Oklahoma Special Olympics compete for medals, pride
BY ADAM KEMP akemp@opubco.com Published: May 10, 2013

Eileen Swiderski's shouts came as fast and furious as her daughter running down the track.

With her red hair flowing, Erin Swiderski, 13, blew past the finish line and edged out her fellow competitors to claim gold in the 50-yard dash. While catching her breath, she glanced around for her mother. A huge smile broke out on her face when she found her in the crowd screaming her head off.

“They say Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth,” Eileen said. “Those people have never been to the Special Olympics.”

More than 4,600 athletes and nearly 1,600 coaches came to Stillwater for the 44th annual Summer Olympics, a record for Special Olympics Oklahoma.

For three days, athletes from across Oklahoma competed in track and field, boccie ball, bowling, golf, horseshoes, powerlifting, 3-on-3 basketball and softball.

“It's truly amazing,” Eileen said. “No matter the form of athlete they are, everyone is happy for everybody and cheering for everyone. You look around, and you don't see a sad face on anybody because it brings out the best in them.”

While Erin was getting her gold medal placed around her neck, across the way, hundreds more athletes were showing off their arms in the softball throw competition.

The crowd surrounding the athletes was loud and unrelenting with its praise, shouting encouragement and waving signs of support as the throwers warmed up.

A hard rain the night before had caused the grass to turn to mud, but Bailey Miller was able to keep her footing to hurl the grapefruit-sized ball through the air.

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