Special Athletes Competing This Weekend At U.C. Davis

More than 700 athletes will compete in the Special Olympics Northern California Summer Games this weekend at U.C. Davis.

For the past four months, if you were to walk up to the Hoover High School swimming pool and see the Fresno Special Olympics aquatics team practicing, you would think it was just another practice.

Special Olympics aquatics coach, Michele Carmichael said, "They are serious athletes. They come out here, they stretch out... just told me today that they've been watching YouTube to perfect their stroke a little better."

Swimmer C.J. Pansarosa said, "Usually we don't have time to talk. We have to listen to our coaches... There's not much time to chit-chat in the water."

Swimmer Emily Ford said, "I'm doing the 500, that's 20 laps, nonstop, you have to breathe really good."

Swimmer Greg Oryzargoca said, "You gotta think positive, you gotta eat right, and when it's time to swim, it's your time to shine."

The athletes 8-years-old and up and are all intellectually disabled, but none of them allow their body to shortchange their effort.

"You're just out there and you're giving all your power to pull your strength in, everything that you have in swimming. It's really, really hard and it's challenging, but it's a good thing. It keeps you moving, it keeps your heart rate going, you're swimming your laps, and we really do work hard every day at swim practice," said Ford.

"Swimming makes me fast and I love swimming... and when they say get out, or if they're on the diving boards, I just stay in there and practice my strokes for swimming," said Oryzargoca.

Coach Carmichael said, "They want to show people that they're capable, that they're winners, that they're champions, and they know it takes hard work to get there."

If any of the athletes win a gold medal this coming weekend, they'll be entered into a lottery to participate in next summer's World Games, when more than 7,000 athletes will be in Los Angeles.

But as serious as they are about being the best athlete, they're also serious about being the best person they can be.

Emily Ford said, "It's just joyful... It's family... It's love..."

Greg Oryzargoca said, "It's like brother and sister. We're just having fun and that's what it's all about."

Forget Special Olympians... They're just Olympians with a special ability to make you smile.