Athletes from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia have earned 89 medals so far in the sixth International Summer Special Olympics conducted this past week on the campus of Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, La. The competition concludes today.
The sports extravaganza is featuring more than 4,300 mentally handicapped athletes from 48 countries and each of the 50 states. Athletes ranging in age from 8 to 70 are competing in 13 sports, including swimming, basketball, soccer and track and field events.
"I would call these the smiley games," said Medalia Edna, head coach with the Israeli Special Olympic team competing in their first international games. "Everyone here is so happy. Everyone smiles whether he wins or comes in last. This is the real atmosphere of the Olympic Games."
The District of Columbia was represented by a delegation of 48 athletes and 72 parents and coaches. The athletes have won a total of 29 medals--18 gold, seven silver and four bronze. Athletes from Maryland have won a total of 21 medals and athletes from Virginia 39 medals.
Carol Barham, 10, of Washington nearly doubled her performance in the standing long jump. Barham leaped 68 centimeters to win a gold medal. During training for the games her best leap was 37 centimeters.
At colorful opening ceremonies Tuesday evening, more than 65,000 spectators filled Tiger Stadium to witness the opening activities, which included the parade of athletes and the torch lighting ceremony. Marching with the delegation were such celebrities as Rafer Johnson, Bruce Jenner, Rick Mahorn, Beau Bridges, Susan St. James and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).