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June 9, 2013

Special Olympics athletes put in time, effort to win gold

TERRE HAUTE — Determined athletes wearing brightly-colored team T-shirts were running, lifting, jumping and cycling Saturday on the west side of Indiana State University’s campus during the 44th annual Indiana Special Olympics Summer Games.

The games, hosted by Indiana State University and Rose-Hulman, started with some events Friday and continued all day Saturday and are set to wrap up by noon today. Bowling events took place Saturday at Vigo Bowl and the Terre Haute Bowling Center.

Among the athletes was weightlifter Justin Fridley, 31, of Anderson, a 34-time competition winner and proud special Olympian.

“He only gets gold,” said Ted Miller, Fridley’s coach.

During the squats portion of the competition Saturday, Fridley, who competed in a national competition in 2010, went for a 500-pound lift, but came up just shy of making that goal.

“They say I was close,” Fridley said. He did manage a lift of 405 pounds, making him the gold medal winner in that event.

Fridley wins gold so often, he recently asked his coach what colors the other medals are, Miller said, adding that Fridley, who trains at Anderson University, has his sights set on topping the Special Olympics squat record of 583 pounds.

“I take my weight lifting seriously,” Fridley said, adding he has been at the sport for 11 years.

Across the street from the lifting competitions, athletes were competing in track and field events on a warm and sunny Marks Field. Among those competing were Billy Foster and Ernie Lusk of Parke County. Foster took first in his heat of the 50 meter dash while Lusk took sixth. Both were also looking forward to competing in more track and field events and also softball, Foster said.

“It’s wonderful,” said their coach, Nicki Sims, formerly of Terre Haute. “It’s very rewarding to see these guys compete and try their best.” Sims was also coaching Jon Nuget of Rockville, who was competing in Bocce Ball, one of the busiest sports of the day.

Other sports in the 2013 Summer Games included aquatics, bowling, cycling, horseshoes and volleyball. Aquatics took place at Rose-Hulman.

More than 1,500 people volunteer to make the Summer Games a success, said Duchess Adjei with the Indiana Special Olympics. There are also another 1,100 coaches and chaperones. Top ($50,000) sponsors this year included Finish Line, Law Enforcement Torch Run and the Knights of Columbus.

This year’s $20,000 sponsors included an anonymous donor, the Duke Energy Foundation, Indiana AMVETS Department Service Fund, the Indiana FOP Foundation and Indiana University Health, according to the Indiana Special Olympics website.

For more information on the 2013 Summer Games or to volunteer for future events, visit www.soindiana.org.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

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