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Special Olympics Basketball Tournament Sunday at UCSB

Nearly 300 athletes to compete in the ninth annual competition at Events Center

Hundreds of Special Olympics athletes will compete Sunday in the Ninth Annual Santa Barbara Special Olympics Basketball Tournament at the UCSB Events Center. Four local Santa Barbara Special Olympics teams will be joined by 30 teams of athletes from San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Ventura, Santa Clarita, Kern and Los Angeles counties to compete and enjoy of the sport of basketball.

Opening ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. with the parade of athletes. Mayor Marty Blum will welcome athletes and kick off the tournament. The public is invited to attend.

More than 400 Special Olympics Southern California athletes, coaches, and volunteers are expected to attend the event, which is the most anticipated event for Special Olympics Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara team “Sharpshooters” includes Susie Carey, who has been playing basketball for 18 years. Carey started in 1991 as the first Santa Barbara Special Olympics female basketball player. “I like the opportunity and pleasure of playing basketball that Special Olympics gives me,” Carey said. “I like making new friends and meeting new people from other cities.” 

Coach Henry Gonzales, one of Carpinteria High School’s basketball coaches, heads up a team of 14 local volunteer coaches for Special Olympics who provide weekly coaching, sports training and competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Ali Sprott-Roen, Regional Sports manager and tournament director, has seen a growth in the Special Olympics Basketball program over the past three years from two teams to four.

“Basketball is one of our most popular Special Olympics sports in Santa Barbara, and we are very lucky to have a high quality coaching team in place to support our four teams. The Santa Barbara Athletes look forward to the tournament at UCSB all season and are very excited to get out there and play their best this weekend.” 

The public is invited to the opening ceremonies, the competition and the awards ceremonies that begin at 2:30 p.m. Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Lt. Butch Arnoldi and Sheriff Bill Brown will be awarding medals to first, second and third place teams in eight divisions. 

Special Olympics Santa Barbara serves 275 children and adults with intellectual disabilities through year-round sports training and competition opportunities in 10 sports. The mission of Special Olympics is to provide its members with continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. To get involved as a volunteer or supporter, call 805.884.1516.

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