BLADENSBURG, Ohio (WCMH) – Special Olympics athletes practice all year for the state championships in March. But this year they found out some of them won’t be able to go.  

“We’ve been in this 13 years and I’ve never once heard of having too many athletes,” explained Angie Muston.

She is the mother of three athletes, two of whom she hasn’t told about the limitations.

“I haven’t told him yet that he will not get to go. Because I will hear it for a whole year,” she said about her son.

The Special Olympics of Ohio are hosting the winter State Championships in March. Muston said she’s been helping her kids train and practice for more than a decade, and not once have they not been included.

“How are they going to explain to them he gets to go but you can’t. It’s just a mess,” she said.

Her oldest daughter Lakota has been playing basketball and running track since she was 12. She explained her favorite parts of the sports are, “Dribbling, shooting, too. Throwing, basketball. Mostly running from track and field.” 

Knox County has 20 members on the winter Special Olympics basketball team. Two weeks ago, they were told they would only be able to take 5 team members to the state championships. 

“You’ve got to be kidding me. How do you pick who gets to do this? The only thing the coach could come up with is a lottery,” said Muston.

Lakota, the oldest daughter, understands what this means. She won’t be able to see her friends at the tournament that she doesn’t see every year. And she doesn’t want to participate if everyone doesn’t get to.

“It’s just not fair. It wasn’t fair for some of my friends cannot compete either. That’s why I told my mom I’m not going to do it,” she explained.

Angie Muston was told there are too many athletes. She believes the new policy is because of new leadership at the Special Olympics of Ohio.

“All these athletes are going to be asking, why? And all we can say is, they said they have too many,” she said.

Special Olympics of Ohio responded to a request for an interview Thursday with a statement from their CEO:

“Inclusion is central to our mission. As such, no eligible athlete is denied participation in our organization. All of our 20,000 eligible athletes can participate in local and regional sport competitions. Special Olympics has for years had an advancement process to higher levels of competition. However, this had not historically been implemented in Ohio for all sports. We understand this will take some getting used to for some. This change reflects positive growth in our sports participation. Special Olympics believes achieving one’s personal best should be the defining measure of success.”

Jessica Stewart, Special Olympics Ohio CEO

Muston reached out to Special Olympics as well. She was met with a similar statement that read:

“We are well aware there is concern over our quota for State Indoor Winter Games.  We have done our best to accommodate athletes of all abilities throughout Ohio.  Unfortunately, we are not able to meet the demand of every deserving athlete. 

Local program leadership has been informed of our process, and we lean to them to decide on how they will fill their quota.  For additional information, please contact your local coordinator.  Thank you for your concern, patience, and understanding.”

Muston thinks there must be another way to continue to involve every athlete at the state championships.

“If it’s too many athletes for one event, yeah, it might be the state but hold more than one event. Or just at different places or at different times of the month,” she said.

When asked what she would have the Special Olympics do differently, she said, “The coach is a volunteer. She shouldn’t be the one to have to look at these athletes and say sorry you don’t get to go. If they’re going to do this they should be the ones coming down here and saying sorry, we’re not letting you go. Better communication for one thing. And to find a way to make it so you don’t have to cut Olympians.”

The community in Bladensburg is rallying around its athletes, planning its own championships at the end of March.