What better way to motivate an athlete to do his best than to hear encouragement from someone he or she admires.
Nearly 600 Special Olympians will receive those words of inspiration from two of WVU s outstanding student athletesMeg Bulger and Mike Ganseyat 8 p.m. Friday, June 3, at the WVU Coliseum as the Summer Games get under way with official opening ceremonies.
Bulger is a Kodak All-American and a Big East First Team selection who helped guide the womens basketball team to the finals of the NIT tournament this past season. She is a fan favorite among Special Olympians.
Mountaineer guard Mike Gansey helped lead the Mountaineers to the Elite 8 of mens NCAA basketball this past season. The 6-foot-4 player, known for his rare combination of athletic ability, smarts and desire, is also well known in Special Olympics circles.
I plan to talk to the Special Olympians about how hard work also equals a lot of fun, and that giving your all truly inspires greatness in all of us,Bulger said.
Gansey said he will also focus on the hard work, dedication and training it takes to get to the topwhether its competing in Special Olympics or the Elite 8.
I also want to tell the athletes how special and humbling it is for us to have them here for the weekend,Gansey said.
Approximately 600 athletes representing 30 counties will participate in the Parade of Athletes Friday night, said Eloise Tomei of WVU s Special Events and Ceremonies staff.
Its a special feeling when these competitors enter the Coliseum floor to the cheers of many,Tomei said.Our theme this year will be `Reach for Your Dreams,and I can assure you they will be doing so throughout the weekend.
Tomei encourages the Morgantown community to come to the Coliseum Friday evening to show their support.
Mountaineer play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi will serve as master of ceremoniesannouncing the counties as the athletes proudly enter the arena.
You just have to observe the athletes coming on to the Coliseum floorbanners in towgrinning from ear to earawaiting the fun and competition that awaits themto understand what a magical experience this is for these athletes and for those of us in the stands,Caridi said.
The opening is a chance for the competitors to becenter stage,said John Corbett, executive director of Special Olympics West Virginia.
“For the athletes, the opening ceremony of the Summer Games is one of those magical moments where they are the stars of the show. They are grateful for the attention and support that they receive, and they relish the opportunity to be recognized as winners for their personal accomplishments no matter how great or small. I have no doubt that Summer Games will see athletes reaching for their dreams and making their dreams come true.”
Morgantown entertainer Bobby Nicholas, a favorite among the athletes, will deliver a special musical tribute, including the Josh Groban song”To Where You Are.”
The night will also include remarks from WVU President David C. Hardesty, along with Phil Reale, board chairman of Special Olympics West Virginia, who will present the George Davis Award for Courage.
While some of the competition begins Friday, most contests will be held on Saturday at various locations in and around the Coliseum, Shell Building, Natatorium and other Morgantown locations, including the Monongahela River for kayaking and the Mylan Park fields for softball.
When athletes are not competing, an array of activities await them in the popular Olympic Village, located in the parking lot next to the Shell Building. Athletes can rest and recoup by participating in karaoke, bingo, ring toss, a petting zoo and more.
The games end Sunday at 11:45 a.m. with a closing ceremony at the WVU Track, where the athletes form a friendship circle and bid farewell before extinguishing the”Flame of Hope.”