A WEEK long festival of sport, inclusion and friendship comes to Horsham for the third year running this week as a record number of athletes compete in the Tri-State Games.
The games have run every year since 1986 and have been hosted by 15 different regional areas but there has never been more than the 340 athletes that will take part in the 2017 event.
Competitors, and their support staff, have come from New South Wales, South Australia and across Victoria. Host coordinator Jenny Reid said the games provided an opportunity that would not otherwise be there.
“It gives adults with profound or significant disabilities the opportunity to participate in sports that they normally wouldn’t,” she said. “They participate every day with minimum training beforehand. But really it is about the friendships that are made; it’s just heartwarming.”
Competitors as young as 18 and as old as 80 will take part in team sports early in the week before swimming, athletics and indoors sports take centre stage later in the week.
Horsham Rockets competitor Julie Clark has been taking part in the games for 20 years. She said she originally started competing when she lived in Mildura.
“It’s one of the few chances I get to catch up with some of my friends from there,” she said. “My favourite event will be the netball but I’ll also be doing the 50 metre backstroke on Tuesday.”
One of the highlights throughout the week is the sportsmanship on display between competing athletes.
“I was really nervous when competing in the discus for the first time.” Clark said . “Then a girl from the Murray Magpies came up to give me a hug and tell me not to be nervous because she would cheer for me. I ended up second in my first year.”
Four teams from Horsham will take place in the games; Axis Worx, Horsham Giants, Horsham Heat and Horsham Rockets. A further seven teams from the Wimmera will also take part; Ararat Brave, Ararat Pumas, Edenhope, Grampians Hotshots, Stawell Swifts, St Arnaud All Stars and Warrack Warriors.
The athletes will parade through Horsham before the opening ceremony at May Park on Monday morning. The procession of competitors will start outside the Uniting Church in Pynsent Street at 9.30am before making its way down Firebrace Street and ending at May Park.
The games will run throughout the week, with themed functions creating a party atmosphere each night, before a presentation night on Friday. When the games travel to Adelaide in 2018 it will the first time away for some Horsham competitors.