Hundreds Of Special Olympics Ohio Athletes To Compete In State Tournament

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About 600 Special Olympics athletes from around the state are expected to participate in the 2012 Special Olympics Ohio State Basketball Tournament finals and individual skills contest in Tuscarawas County this weekend.

The basketball tournament features 26 teams representing 20 Ohio counties, including Belmont and Pike counties. The individual skills contest features more than 300 athletes representing 12 Ohio counties. Sixteen athletes from Licking County and eight athletes from Perry County will compete in the individual skills event. 

"It's incredibly important in the lives of our Special Olympics athletes because you can see in their hearts and in their emotions and in their faces that it becomes one of the, if not the most important and best weekends in their year," said Curt Howard, public relations manager for Special Olympics Ohio. "When you're in a position such as they are, you're told you can't or you're less than or you're not able to. This can manifest itself in their lives. The Special Olympics has proven to lift their self esteem through the encouragement through sport." 

The tournament involves action in semi-final and final rounds in eight divisions. Those advancing to the final rounds compete for the state championships. Consolation rounds determine third and fourth place status.

The 26 teams competing in the state tournament are from an original field of 138 teams from throughout Ohio.

The individual skills contest involves individual competition in basketball-related skills, such as dribbling, passing and free throw shooting.

Special Olympics Ohio provides year-round sports training and competition opportunities for adults and children with intellectual disabilities. The organization currently serves more than 23,000 athletes throughout the state.