Rhinelander athletes bring home the gold
Five Rhinelander athletes brought home the gold when they won first place at the state Special Olympics games recently.
This tight knit team won their medals while performing flawlessly on the Bocce Ball field beating close to 20 divisions who also competed from around the state.
The Rhinelander team was formed three years ago and they have had their eye on a gold medal since then.
“Shirley Mueller started the group playing Bocce Ball,” said Sue-Ellen Hoppe, the coach of the team. “They have competed before but never brought home any gold medals.”
Every Wednesday the team met at Hodag Park to practice. Bocce Ball can be likened to “Italian lawn bowling” according to Sue-Ellen.
“It’s not a real vigorous sport,” she said. “But you do have to have really good hand-eye coordination and know how to accurately throw a ball.”
This past June the team competed in Wausau coming in first place at that meet. That qualified them for a regional tournament in Appleton where they came in second but that was enough to qualify them to compete in the state Special Olympics tournament.
The athletes were pretty excited to travel to Waukesha to represent the Rhinelander Area Special Olympics at the meet. There were athletes there who were also competing in such sports as swimming, track and field and other games.
“We got to stay in the dorms at Carroll College which all the athletes really enjoyed,” said Sue-Ellen. “They were really impressed with the opening ceremony and very proud to be there.”
There were 20 divisions for Bocce Ball with each division playing three to four games each. The Rhinelander team won all their games.
The ages for the Rhinelander athletes range in age from teenagers to 70-year-old Albert Moser.
“That’s what great about this sport,” said Sue-Ellen. “Almost everyone can compete.”
Bocce Ball consists of two teams with anywhere from one to four players. Eight colored balls are used, usually four red and four green. There is also a smaller ball called the “pallino” that is used as the center for which all the other balls are aimed.
Sometimes the game is played on a court but usually is played on a lawn or field. The object of the game is to get the balls as close to the Pallino as possible. The team that does this gets the points.
“It sounds like a relatively easy game but when this team plays they can get pretty competitive,” said Sue-Ellen.
The Rhinelander Area Special Olympics is different than what is offered through area school systems. Most of the athletes on this team are home schooled or live with a guardian, however a couple are self sufficient.
“Our athletes come from a wide range of environments,” said Sue-Ellen. “We also get different funding than what school systems receive.”
In fact, this organization is open to all developmentally disabled adults who would like to join in the fun.
But what is really clear, is that all the athletes on this team were excited to represent Rhinelander at the state Olympics and very proud to bring home the gold.
“It was so much fun watching them compete and then win,” said Sue-Ellen. “It really made them proud to bring home the gold.”
For more information about Rhinelander Area Special Olympics call Sue-Ellen Hoppe at 715-369-5378 or Tony Bartishofski at 715-282-5592.