Brad's Blog: A special weekend for special athletes

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - "Let me win.  But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

That's the Special Olympics oath.  It's always recited during the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics Mississippi State Summer Games.

Last weekend, Keesler Air Force Base once again hosted the annual sporting competition.  I was lucky enough to emcee the opening ceremonies last Friday. What a night!  I admit the Beijing opening ceremonies were spectacular. However, the Special Olympics Mississippi opening ceremonies were just as meaningful.

The marriage between Special Olympics and Keesler is incredible.  This year, 992 athletes from around Mississippi participated in the games.  Every athlete is assigned two airmen.  And the bond that forms between the trio is incredible to watch.

The airmen escort the athletes all over the base.  They play catch with them.  They eat with them.  And they become the athletes' biggest cheerleaders.  It's often hard to tell who enjoys the weekend more, the athletes or the airmen.

The athletes represent 18 different areas of the state.  As they walk past the crowd of supporters, they're all smiling, and they're all waving toward Mom, Dad, and Keesler's commander.  The smiles and the waves are an important part of Special Olympics weekend.

Winning an event is great.  But participating in an event is  the real reward of the weekend. There are no tears at the Special Olympics finish line.  There are hugs, and high fives for the first place finisher, and for every other athlete who qualifies for the competition.

"Let me win.  But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Special Olympics state games athletes don't get the fanfare that participants in other events do.  Too bad, because I think we can all learn so much from these amazing athletes.  Will they ever sign $25 million contracts to star on a sports stage?  No.  Will the media ever refer to them as role models?  No.

You know what, Special Olympics athletes are role models.  They're competitors who know the state games are just that - games.  They do the best they can, and then win or lose, they walk away winners.

"Let me win.  But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

The Olympic flame has been extinguished for another year. When the state games return to Keesler Air Force Base next May, I hope the spotlight shines on a few more of these incredible athletes, and their hard working escorts. They deserve the recognition, because in my book, they're all winners.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.