Special Olympics introduces players to bocce ball
By PATRICK BAHR
Anita Enyart has tried just about every sport the Special Olympics have to offer.
She has done everything from bowling in the fall to track and field in the spring. But to Enyart, there is one sport that really gets her excited, bocce ball.
“My favorite is bocce,” Enyart said. “You just roll it like a bowling ball.”
Enyart was competing in both singles bocce ball as well as doubles bocce ball with her husband, Ron, at Saturday’s Special Olympics Western/Southwestern Area Summer Classic at Canyon View Park
Bocce ball is a sport where players attempt to get their balls closest to a smaller ball — which is called a jack or pallino. The person whose bocce balls are closest to the pallino after everyone has thrown is awarded points.
Bocce wasn’t the only sport offered Saturday, as Special Olympic athletes from across Colorado competed in cycling, tennis and golf, all looking to win medals.
“The athletes practice for six to eight weeks, so today is their day to shine,”
Western/Southwestern Area Manager Julie Fite said. “They get to compete against other athletes, which is fun, because it’s usually scrimmaging with their teammates.”
All the events offered multiple opportunities for the athletes. In tennis, Special Olympic athletes could play singles, doubles and unified doubles, where an athlete is teamed up with a non-disabled partner. Bocce ball had the same setup.
“It could be a peer or a brother or sister,” Fite said. “It’s a good way to offer a little socialization.”
The Special Olympic golfers played nine holes at Lincoln Park, and were all teamed up with a non-disabled partner. The teams play alternate shot, and head golf coach Chris Wright said there were about six or seven teams participating.
Wright has been involved with the Special Olympics for seven years and said Grand Junction has had a golf program for the past four. Wright has served as a partner, and said it’s a great experience watching the disabled athletes play.
“You can’t explain it, watching someone go from the first week having trouble hitting the ball 3-4 feet, to by the end watching them hit 50-60 feet,” Wright said. “There are big grins and smiles. They are typical golfers, they’ll get mad and throw their clubs, but it’s a joy.”
Wright said the most important part of the golf program is to make sure all the athletes understand the game before heading onto the course.
“We try to get them to an understanding to where if they wanted to play nine holes they wouldn’t be disruptive to others,” Wright said. “They have all come a long way with the rules.”
Unfortunately for the athletes, an event like this would have served as a qualifying event for the state games in years previous, but because of budget cuts, the state games won’t be held year. Fite said Saturday’s event was smaller than in years past because teams from Glenwood Springs and Vail couldn’t make the trip.