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Special Olympics basketball tournament to be held in Bloomington-Normal

Written by on March 8, 2023

Photo provided by Special Olympics Illinois

NORMAL, Ill. – Illinois State University will host over 1,000 Special Olympic athletes for their annual 2023 basketball tournament. These athletes will be accompanied by 400 coaches and 250 volunteers in the Horton Fieldhouse.

The tournament is set to take place Mar. 10 and 11. On the first day of competition junior, high school and female teams will compete, while on Mar. 11 senior male teams will face off. 

The tournament saw it’s greatest turnout at this event back in 2019, when 140 teams from across the state showed up for the competition. Since the pandemic however participation has tapered off. However this coming tournament has been the greatest total of teams in competition yet with the upcoming tournament set to host just over 100 teams. 

1975 was the first year that basketball became an official sport of Special Olympics Illinois. Over the past 46 years since then, the tournament has taken place every year at ISU’s historic Horton Fieldhouse. 

Director of State Championships for the Special Olympics, Nate Henry, has been with Special Olympics Illinois for six years. Henry spoke on his pride for the people whom make up the staff for this event. 

“We have a great staff here,” said Henry. “Anything from scheduling the volunteers, to making sure the venue is secure, to the athlete meals and we have entertainment each night that we’re doing.”

This year marks the first time that Special Olympics Illinois will host esports as an opportunity for athletes to compete at home. Athletes and coaches can participate in many events ongoing at both ISU and Illinois Wesleyan University with immersive technology.

With this technology, athletes can also participate in the after party and games each night after the competition.

Special Olympics in Illinois provide an abundance of events for those with intellectual disabilities. Henry spoke on the vastness of the organizations programs with future competitions in the spring and summer of 2023. 

“We have 11 different regions that all have spring games and if you qualify at that spring games by receiving gold, you qualify for our summer games,” said Henry. “Which is our biggest sports event with six different sports highlighted.”