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Finishers in one of the gymnastics events salute their fellow athletes and spectators on June 10, 2017 as part of the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games at Illinois State's Horton Field House in Normal. This year's Summer Games begin Friday and run through Sunday.

NORMAL — More than 4,000 athletes and unified partners will compete Friday through Sunday in the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games at Illinois State, Illinois Wesleyan, Normal West High School and Kingsley Junior High.

Competition begins at noon Friday and runs through noon Sunday. The public is invited and encouraged to attend. There will be competition in six sports, with 1,600 coaches, 2,000 volunteers and 3,300 family members also expected to be in attendance.

Volunteers are still needed. Please visit https://www.soill.org/event/summer-games/ to learn more or register.

The Summer Games are the largest of the 201 Special Olympics competitions in Illinois each year. Athletes will compete in swimming (IWU), track and field (ISU track), bocce (ISU soccer's Adelaide Street Field), gymnastics (Horton Field House, Normal West), powerlifting (Kingsley Junior High) and soccer (ISU Intramural fields).

To qualify for the State Games, one of the following has occurred: athletes have won gold medals in athletics (track & field) at their Region Spring Games; won gold medals in Region competition for gymnastics, bocce, or swimming; or have participated in sanctioned competition or Region qualifiers in soccer or powerlifting.

Special Olympics Illinois is again offering Unified competition in bocce, with about 140 people competing. Unified Sports combine equal numbers of Special Olympics and non-Special Olympics athletes of similar age and ability on teams to compete against other Unified teams.

In addition, there will be a Special Olympics Young Athletes Culminating Event on Friday, a sports play program for children with intellectual disabilities and their peers designed to introduce them to sports prior to Special Olympics eligibility at age 8.

Also, Young Athletes ages 6 and 7 with a valid medical application will have the opportunity to choose between three transitional exhibitions: the 50-meter race (10 a.m. Saturday), tennis ball throw (12:20 p.m Saturday) and individual soccer skills (1 p.m. Saturday).

The Opening Ceremony begins with the Parade of Athletes and Honorary Coaches into ISU’s Hancock Stadium is at 8 p.m. Friday. Also included will be the entry of the final leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run. The torch will be passed to Special Olympics athletes, who will light the cauldron holding the Flame of Hope.

The Victory Dance will be in Uptown Normal from 7-8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Also during the games will be the Healthy Athletes program at Redbird Arena, offering health services and information to athletes, coaches and families in need.

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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