CHICAGO — The first day of competition and 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics in Chicago kicked off on Monday.
While it has been around for decades, every year brings new competitors toeing up to the start line for the first time.
"It was so fun," athlete Saoul Perkins said. "That was definitely the hardest I ever ran. I was like a race car baby!"
No one knows that more than Amelia Hernandez, who suited up for her 50th time this year. She was just 11 years old when she competed in the 50 meter run in Chicago's first Special Olympics. At 61, she has racked up more medals that she can count.
"I've lost track," she laughs. "I just put them all in a drawer cause there's so many!"
Thousands of Chicago-area athletes will compete in 25 track and field events over the next five days. This is the first year the city has held the Special Olympics at Dunbar Park on Chicago's South Side.
The athletes say at the games it's not so much who you're competing against, as the people holding you up and cheering you on.
"I'm so proud of all of them...they are giving it everything they've got. So very proud," Kay Perkins said.
It's all in the spirit of the Special Olympics' official motto: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."