Special Olympic Games set to hit Western Slope

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- Twelve-hundred athletes will be gearing up to compete this weekend as the 2013 Colorado Special Olympics hits the pool, gymnasium and fieldhouse of the Colorado Mesa University campus for the first time.

Once the flame of hope is carried in Saturday morning, the competition starts. Not only is the city excited, but the athletes are ready to show of their skills.

"I like to be with my friends, athletes and family. I like being active and it's all wonderful," athlete April Craig said of the games.

It's the largest and most prestigious competition of the year for athletes with disabilities. The Special Olympics Colorado Summer Games is set to kick off Saturday, with athletes participating in five events ranging from gymnastics to powerlifting.

"I do swimming, basketball, tennis," Craig said.

It doesn't stop there, as multiple other sports are in April's vision. Any athlete will tell you it starts with preparation, and CMU officials agree as they prepare for an electric event.

"[It will be] all hands on deck, it's a labor of love and we are so happy to be a part of it, we have volunteers everywhere," CMU VP of student affairs John Marshall said.

Just like the JUCO World Series, the city and participants are ecstatic to host the event on the Western Slope.

"CMU and the city have embraced Special Olympics Colorado and we are excited to be here and found out that the city is even more excited," Colorado Special Olympics spokesperson Tod Kramer said.

"For Colorado Mesa University to be able to host a high profile event like this is really and honor, it's not something everyone gets the opportunity to do," Marshall added.

City officials say it will be the first time a statewide competition of this scale has been held on the Western Slope since the games began in 1969.

Competitions will run from 11 am to 5 pm Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning from 8 to 2 pm.

Officials encourage that residents across the Western Slope head out and support the summer games, as all events are free and open to the public.

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