Kayaking and softball will be the new kids on the block at the 32nd annual Special Olympics Summer Games June 9-11 at West Virginia University.

The addition of the two sports brings to nine the number of games offered at the statewide competition, in its third year at WVU , said Greg Caprara, program director. West Virginia is the first state to include kayaking in its Special Olympics competitions.

“Were happy to be offering both of these activities at this years games,”Caprara said.”I myself am particularly pleased that kayaking has been added. Ive been working on it for awhile, and its kind of exciting to have it come to fruition. Because its a new sport, our numbers are small. Were looking at a total of 25 participants.”

Caprara said this is the second year for softball, but last year it was more of a demonstration sport because only two teams competed.”This year, we have five teams from Barbour, Gilmer, Jackson, Mason and Putnam counties,”he noted.

Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics is an international sports competition for people who are mentally handicapped. West Virginia has been involved from the start, fielding contestants for the first World Games.

Caprara said the idea to make kayaking a Special Olympic sport came from officials with a nonprofit organization that offers adventure recreation to the disabled.

“Adventure Pursuits of Parkersburg approached us to see if we would like to have Special Olympians try kayaking,”he said.”We tried it in Parkersburg with a limited number of people, and it seemed to work out well. We then petitioned the Special Olympics International Committee, which approved our request.”

The kayaking competition, which will feature 250-meter and 500-meter races, will be held from 8-11 a.m. Saturday, June 10, and Sunday, June 11, at the Star City boat dock.

Softball will be played from 1-4 p.m. Friday, 8:30-11 a.m. Saturday and 8:30-9 a.m. Sunday at Pam Berry Field, White Park.

The two new events enhance an already solid array of sporting events offered on the state level. Other games include aquatics, bocce, cycling, softball throw, track and field, tennis and wheelchair competition.