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Special Olympics Michigan athletes head to USA Games

More than 50 qualify for national competition
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 08:02:26-04

MICHIGAN — More than competition, it’s a celebration and dozens of Michigan athletes have qualified to represent their state on the national stage.

This is a big week for Special Olympics Michigan. State Summer Games return to in-person competition at Central Michigan University today. Then, from June 5-12, more than 50 Michigan athletes will travel to Orlando for the USA Games, joining 5,500 other Special Olympics athletes from all 50 states and the Caribbean.

A very big deal for all of the participants, including Tyler Lawton. Tyler works for Special Olympics Michigan - at the Unified Sports and Inclusion Center - doing whatever needs to be done. He also works for Ferris State University in the athletic department. On top of all that he's been a Special Olympics athlete for nearly 2 decades. He says, "It gives athletes like me an opportunity to prove not only to us but to the world that special Olympics we just want to be like everybody else we don't care whether the athletes have any disabilities or any other abilities we just want to be the same like everybody else.”

Not long ago, Tyler got a big surprise. Tyler qualified to go to USA Games for the first time. It only happens every four years, and it's an epic experience for everyone involved.

When he found out, he says, “I was almost in tears because I’ve trained so hard for the past 15 years that I’ve been trying and working hard and allowing my teammates to push me even more.” Special Olympics Michigan Executive Director Tim Hileman says, “I can't wait. My favorite part is watching the athletes compete and again the difficulty of the past few years, but our athletes have shown grit, determination, courage, joy and I can't wait to watch them walk into that opening ceremony with their arms raised representing Michigan we've got incredible athletes and I think they're going to make the entire state of Michigan proud.”

Tyler has started training harder ahead of the games, and can appreciate what it means to be part of Special Olympics on a national stage, celebrating with friends, volunteers and athletes from across the country. "It feels great, I mean it not only helps me boost my confidence to know that everybody else knows that Special Olympics is here. We're here. We're alive. We're well. " Tyler is competing in track and field, but Michigan also had athletes qualify in softball, basketball, aquatics and bowling, plus unified teams in golf, soccer and basketball.