Mathieu Rocca lets his emotions flow after nailing a strike on July 5 at the Special Olympics USA Games at Kenmore Lanes. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Mathieu Rocca lets his emotions flow after nailing a strike on July 5 at the Special Olympics USA Games at Kenmore Lanes. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Celebrating strikes and friendship at Special Olympics USA Games

Bowlers, spectators pack Kenmore Lanes

So many bowlers and spectators packed inside Kenmore Lanes that at times it seemed like there was no room to spare.

From July 2-5, the Special Olympics USA Games came to town for singles finals, and traditional and unified team and doubles finals. The opening ceremony for the games took place July 1 at Husky Stadium and then a multitude of sports got under way on July 2 and ran through July 6 around the Seattle area with the closing ceremony at Lake Union Park. On the Eastside, the golf event took place for three days at Willows Run Golf Club in Redmond.

The unified doubles event closed things out at Kenmore Lanes on July 5 and paired Special Olympics athletes and their partners, which in some cases featured a parent or sibling.

“It’s cool,” said athlete Mathieu Rocca from South Carolina, who had two bronze medals hanging around his neck from the singles and unified teams events. “I bowled great today. The best part is getting more spares and more strikes and more cheering.”

Added his mom and partner Colette: “It’s great to hear people cheer and to have people we know around us and doing well. Meeting new people, getting to know people from elsewhere in the United States, even seeing people that we’ve seen at nationals,. It is very pleasant to do all this stuff.”

Denise Niles of Bellevue was part of the supportive crowd along with her friend, who is Mathieu’s aunt. Niles said the place was flowing with positivity and camaraderie amongst the bowlers, partners, volunteers, organizers and spectators.

“It is a wonderful way to spend your morning and it’s so fun to see all the kids competing at this level and it makes them feel so proud of themselves,” said Niles, adding that she was impressed with how the Special Olympics were well-organized and everyone made it comfortable for the athletes while transporting them from the University of Washington dorms to the venues.

Venue manager Tynan Gable said the inspiration spread throughout the crowds at Kenmore Lanes and at all the other sites. Walking around the event, Gable was thrilled to watch the bowlers reap success and bond with each other.

“I would say that the most impressive part to me is just the support and the community feel that you get when you’re at an event like this,” Gable said. “Some of the bowlers have done outstanding things. Yesterday, a bowler scored a 268, getting six straight strikes.”

Alexander Kieffer prepares to unleash the ball. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Alexander Kieffer prepares to unleash the ball. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Athlete Alexander Kieffer partnered with his sister Abigale, and the Indiana duo enjoyed their time at the lanes alongside the Roccas and fellow South Carolina bowlers Davontae Brown and his unified partner Faye Hicks.

“We did very good. Having fun, competing with other people in the country,” Alexander said.

Abigale noted that she and her brother make a solid team.

“Usually, he’ll give me this look and I know he’s either upset or he needs help, so we can help each other,” she said, adding about the event, “It’s really fun because you get to see everyone get excited for everyone and everyone cheers for everyone and gives high fives. It’s awesome.”

Brown showcased both energy and intensity at the event. Often before unleashing the ball, he put on his game face and pointed at the pins. After nailing a strike, Brown let out a yell and swung one fist in the air before doling out high fives to the other athletes and their partners.

“I really like bowling and to do a good job. I focus all the time — takes years of practice,” Brown said. “It was amazing.”

Added Hicks: “We’ve been partners since 10th grade, we just graduated last year. It’s been real nice. It feels good to meet new friends, everybody’s always happy.”

Davontae Brown celebrates a strike. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Davontae Brown celebrates a strike. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Faye Hicks and Davontae Brown check the scoreboard. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Faye Hicks and Davontae Brown check the scoreboard. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

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