The first practice of the season for Columbia Adapted Recreational Bowling took place on Saturday.
The first one already The Special Olympics Missouri Bowling Tournament was held in 1977. Bowling is one of the the nine sports animated year round by the coordinators and volunteers of the Town’s Adapted Recreation.
The first tournament of the season this year will take place next Saturday. Athletes aged 8 and over will be divided into age groups and will receive medals or ribbons based on their points.
âIt will be the athletes from Jefferson City; it will be the Columbia athletes, âsaid Emma Barnes, assistant coordinator of Columbia Parks and Recreation. Special Olympics athletes from surrounding central Missouri will be able to participate, Barnes said.
One athlete, Duke Simmons, is convinced he will win a medal next week. Simmons started bowling at the age of 13 in 1979. Simmons is now 55 and is known for bowling with turkeys – three consecutive strokes. During practice on Saturday, many bowlers stopped to watch Simmons when it was his turn to bowl.
Chris Klipfel, another deputy park department coordinator, has worked in the program for six years. He said the pandemic has taken its toll on this special Olympic sport more than others because it takes place indoors and people are close to each other.
Klipfel said that there are 70 to 80 athletes who come to training every Saturday.
âBut it was a lot more, like 110,â Klipfel said. “We now have 10 routes, and we had 16.”
Many athletes come from group homes, which are still subject to restrictions. Whole groups can be excluded from the practice because a person is immunocompromised. The restrictions have eased some of them, but it’s still far from normal, Klipfel said.
Having enough volunteers also has an impact on the number of people who can come and practice. Barnes said they preferred one volunteer per lane, but that’s not always possible.
Volunteers are “what we live and breathe on,” he said. In fact, the season was postponed this year because MU Homecoming was last weekend. Most of the volunteers are MU student-athletes.
Molly Hogg is one of the student-athlete volunteers. Hogg has been participating in the Special Olympics in Colombia for over a year.
âIt’s a great program that Mizzou Athletics really wants athletes to participate in, and it is important to build relationships in the community,â said Hogg. âI have always loved Special Olympics. I did everything growing up. It’s cool to see the athletes come back and just compete.“
Other volunteers, like Terri Watts, are family members of the Special Olympics athletes. Watts has volunteered with Special Olympics for almost 30 years and enjoys watching his nephew and other athletes every week.
âIt’s really cool to see them progress,â said Watts. âWhen (they) started, they must have had bumpers and bowling ramps. Now they come to train with their own balls and gloves. It’s great to see, especially when they get a reserve or a strike they go crazy.