DeVries nabs Special Olympics gold [UPDATED]Published 10:41am Monday, August 29, 2011 Updated 12:52pm Monday, August 29, 2011
About three years ago Tyler DeVries of Underwood received a Bocce ball set. He fell in love with the game that includes tossing one ball of two pounds and a smaller ball called a pallino.
His liking of Bocce ball eventually led to participation with Team USA in the World Special Olympics in Athens, Greece, which ran from June 25 to July 4. Attending the event were his parents, John and Julie DeVries, and his sister, Amber.
“I had an awesome experience,” said 25-year-old Tyler, “even though the competition was really intense.”
He’s proud of his gold medal presented to him for being part of Bocce ball doubles competition. DeVries also has a fourth place ribbon for taking part in singles Bocce ball and a fifth place ribbon for team Bocce ball.
Team USA consisted of 300 athletes. Each state nominated athletes, and 45 of those nominations came from Minnesota. DeVries was among eight Minnesota athletes chosen,
and the only one who competed in Bocce ball.
In competition, the coin toss winner throws a Bocce ball onto the court, trying to get the ball as close to the pallino (smaller ball) as possible. The opposing team then throws Bocce balls. Players can use their roll to knock an opponent’s ball away from the pallino. The team with the closest ball to the pallino is the winner.
“I couldn’t believe it. We had so many athletes in Greece,” said Tyler. “And so many countries. We traded many pins. I now have a lot of pins from the different countries.”
Tyler and fellow Team USA athletes competed at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Athens.
His father, John, said that although there are different voices with different languages, the story is the same: Special Olympics is something very special in each country.
“There were 22 different sports as part of the World Special Olympics,” said John. “It was nice to talk to people from the different countries.”
Tyler, before heading to Greece with his fellow athletes, trained for a week in San Diego. The athletes took a charter flight from Baltimore to Greece and back. Team USA picks up the expenses for the athletes.
John, his wife Julie and daughter Amber are grateful for local fundraisers that helped send the DeVries family to Athens so they could see Tyler take part in the World Special Olympics. Tyler stayed with fellow athletes at the Team USA quarters while John, Julie and Amber stayed at a hotel.
Tyler and fellow athletes, in addition to competition, had the opportunity to tour the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens consider their patron. Its construction began in 447 BC and was completed in 438 BC. They also toured other historic sites and saw Greek dancers.
John, Julie, Tyler and Amber appreciate the many volunteers and coaches who work at the local, state and national levels for Special Olympics.
“These are dedicated people,” said John, “and they do so much in building the confidence of the participants.”
Tyler will be honored by being in the Underwood Harvest Festival Parade on Saturday, Sept. 3.