VILLANOVA, Pa. (CBS) — The 33rd annual Special Olympics of Pennsylvania returned to Villanova University on Saturday. Because of the pandemic, this is the first time in two years they’ve been able to compete.
“It’s unlike anything else, really,” Charlie Abdo, who has a son participate in the event, said.READ MORE: First Confirmed Cases Of COVID-19 Omicron Variant Reported In Philadelphia, New Jersey
Nearly 1,000 athletes with the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania are taking part in the three-day event.
The annual event took a hiatus last year because of the pandemic. In addition to powerlifting, events also include bocce, running, roller skating, and soccer.
Athlete Emmett Abdo described himself as “rebooted, recharged, and re-energized.”
“It really feels great to really be back in person to see my friends, coaches, and teammates,” Abdo said.READ MORE: Family Of Fallen Delaware County Firefighter Has Mortgage Fully Paid Off
“There were a lot of virtual activities over the last year and a half so that was good,” Charlie Abdo, Emmett’s father, said. “Kept the athletes primed and anticipating coming back and relatively OK shape. But to be back, there’s nothing like it.”
Villanova says its the largest student-run Special Olympics event in the world
“I know we all come out of here inspired by these athletes’ passion and energy,” Jay Wright, head coach of Villanova’s men’s basketball team, said.
Matt Aaron, the president and CEO of Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, said everyone was excited about the event returning.
“It’s been almost two years since we’ve been here at Villanova and the students make this event so exciting every year,” Aaron said. “Everybody, the students, our athletes, our volunteers, everybody is thrilled to be back on campus. The athletes couldn’t be more excited to be back. To see their friends, many of them form partnerships with students when they’re here. We haven’t been on-campus since 2019 and so, they miss the students, they miss the energy of fall festival.”MORE NEWS: Mother Of Ahmir Jones, Teen Killed Protecting Girlfriend During Robbery Near Temple University, Speaks Out
The athletes who win gold go on to compete in the championship in Orlando next summer.