Special Olympics a testiment to courage

We hope readers find time this weekend to support some great athletes.

That, of course, includes local high school teams taking to the courts, pools and mats, and the Northern Michigan University men’s and women’s basketball squads along with the hockey team, all of whom compete tonight and/or Saturday.

But it also includes the wonderful group of competitors taking part in the Special Olympic Winter Games 2013 in Marquette.

The 26th annual Winter Games for Special Olympians in Memory of Rico N. Zenti will be taking place this weekend in Marquette.

Today’s events include downhill skiing competition at Marquette Mountain starting at 2:30 p.m. followed by a 7-9 p.m. social/dance at Marquette’s Holiday Inn.

The official opening ceremonies begin promptly at 9 a.m. Saturday at NMU’s Superior Dome with a parade that will include units from NMU ROTC; Knights of Columbus Honor Guard; State Farm Insurance agents; U.S. Olympic Education Center members; NMU football, hockey, soccer, volleyball and women’s track teams; area high school cheerleaders; and some 140 Special Olympic athletes from across the U.P.

This moving event includes a welcome from NMU, the Invocation, Lighting of the Olympic Torch, and the recitation of the Special Olympic oath. After that, the Special Olympians will put on their snowshoes and skis for outdoor competition, or stay inside the dome for fitness events.

The man the games are named for, Dr. Rico N. Zenti, was head of the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department at Northern Michigan University in the early 1970s. That was when the Special Olympic program was introduced to athletes in the Upper Peninsula and Zenti offered his full support of Northern’s resources in support.

That commitment continues to this day and we’re hoping the community also finds some time to get out to cheer on these athletes from Delta-Schoolcraft, Gogebic-Ontonagon, Dickinson-Iron, Eastern Upper Peninsula and the host Marquette-Alger counties who have been training all year to compete.

The motto of Special Olympics is “Let me win; but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

We salute the organizers who make this weekend happen; the volunteers who give of their time to assist; and especially the athletes who will be giving their all, being brave in the attempt.