USA Softball News Special Olympics Okl...

Special Olympics Oklahoma team wins gold medal at 2022 USA Games; Shares experience with part-time USA Softball staff member & SOOK athlete Logan Doughty

Aug. 22, 2022, 2:55 p.m. (ET)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Recently crowned as the 2022 USA Games Champion in the sport of softball, the Fighting Peacocks of Special Olympics Oklahoma (SOOK) recorded a 5-0 record through the tournament to earn its second gold medal finish in five years. Competing as a part of the Special Olympics Unified Sports® program, the Fighting Peacocks have proved to be an outstanding team while earning three championship titles at the 2014, 2015 and 2019 Special Olympics North America (SONA) Softball Invitationals as well as its first USA Games gold medal finish in 2018. Since its inception in 2008, the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools project has become an integral part of the Special Olympics Unified Sports® program, which joins people with and without intellectual disabilities onto the same sports teams. Special Olympics’ mission through this program is to promote social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences – something the Fighting Peacocks have experienced first-hand during their involvement.


“It’s crazy to see how Unified Sports has brought this team together,” said head coach and 2018 Oklahoma Special Olympics Coach of the Year, Alicia Jory. “They’re not just a team, they’re a family – they joke around, they argue, they make fun of each other – it’s all about the comradery and they work well together.”


Logan Doughty, a SOOK athlete and part-time member of the USA Softball National Office Staff, conducted an interview with members of the Fighting Peacocks as well as their unified partners, coaches and SOOK administration in hopes to learn more about their most recent success at the Special Olympics USA Games.


Earlier this year, the 12-member team was chosen to represent Oklahoma at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, held June 5-12 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. To kick off the event, the team participated in divisional games to decipher the different talent levels of each squad in attendance. On the fourth day of the tournament, the Peacocks battled through the semifinals to advance to the Championship round where they handily defeated their opponent, 28-9, to secure the coveted gold medal.


“It was amazing,” Terry ‘TJ’ Griffith, an athlete for the Peacocks, explained to Doughty. “It was one of the best times of my life.”


A total of 20 of the best unified sport softball teams from across the country traveled to Florida to participate in the event while also being given the opportunity to connect with the other athletes in attendance – an activity many teams look forward to when gearing up for the USA Games.


“My favorite thing about the Games was seeing the competition,” said unified partner, Robert Cearley. “Meeting the players from all the other states, getting to know them and getting to compete with them – that was definitely my favorite thing about the USA Games.”


Along with interacting with other softball players, the team was able to watch and interact with athletes from other sporting events, which allowed them to broaden their knowledge of sports outside of the one they were most familiar with.


“We usually only get to see each other, and other softball teams play,” Walter Crane, a unified partner, expressed to Doughty. “The Games allows us to watch track and field, golf, powerlifting and all the other sports that are represented as well. Going to support the other athletes and their competitions is something our group really likes.”


The team also spent time reflecting on the importance of the Special Olympics USA Game’s mission and how they aim to celebrate every athlete’s dedication and perseverance in their respective sport.


“It’s all about the athletes and watching them do what they love,” Jory told Doughty. “After we’ve struggled all day at getting a hit and then one of them gets up there and knocks the crap out of the ball, their faces light up and they get pumped up. You can’t help but love it because they love it.”


Although the tournament only lasted seven days, the lessons, comradery and memories for these athletes will last a lifetime.


“Special Olympics is amazing, and it teaches you so much – patience, love, and understanding,” Jory said. “I absolutely love seeing them achieve what they’ve worked so hard for by getting the gold and walking across the stage. It’s an overwhelming feeling every time and I’m always so proud of them.”


Following the interview with the Fighting Peacocks, Doughty expressed how much it meant to him to talk first-hand with the USA Games gold medal team. “They’re from my state and that is so cool,” Doughty said. “They did a really good job playing and I’m super proud of them. Talking to them made me want to go be a part of the Fighting Peacocks!”