In 2000, a small nonprofit held the first-ever Endeavor Games on the University of Central Oklahoma campus in Edmond. The event offered a special opportunity for disabled athletes to participate in spirited competition through adaptive sports. This year, UCO is celebrating the 14th anniversary of the event, which has become a byword for excellence in the adaptive sports world. The Endeavor Games attracts the elite of disabled athletes for 10 competitive events, including shooting, sitting volleyball, archery, wheelchair basketball and the ever-popular track and field.
“The UCO Endeavor Games offers a unique opportunity to the athletes that compete here,” says UCO sports programs coordinator Leigha Pemberton. “We provide competition for athletes trying to make elite and national teams, in addition to competition for athletes who are new to the sport and just learning.”
The games are not only a special opportunity for disabled athletes, but for those who gather each summer to help put on the event. “Volunteers and staff of the UCO Endeavor Games get to work with Paralympic hopefuls and Paralympians,” Pemberton says. “Their contributions directly affect Team USA athletes’ journey to the Paralympic Games or an athlete’s journey to lead a more active, healthy lifestyle through adaptive sports.
“This year, we will be adding Paratriathlon,” she continues. “This sport was just recently added to the 2016 Paralympics, and we are excited to offer this event this year.”
Multiple athletes from the games have gone on to greatness across the globe, becoming champions in the Paralympic Games. In 2012 alone, 18 Endeavor Games athletes became medalists at the London Paralympics.
Athlete Jeremy Campbell has competed in every UCO Endeavor Games for the past decade and has gone on to become a three-time gold medalist in the Paralympics as well as the world-record holder for the men’s F44 discus throw. He says that the Endeavor Games is one of the few competitions where athletes can go to just have fun.
“For me, it’s a pleasure just to be there,” he says. “The UCO Endeavor Games was where I was first introduced to disabled sports and where I got my start in the Paralympics.”
But for Campbell and many others, the games represent more than just a good time.
“It greatly serves the public, especially in raising disability awareness,” Campbell says. “And it’s very inspirational. What the people there are overcoming, the smiles on the kids’ faces who are participating, it just gives you a better sense of what life is all about.”
The 14th annual Endeavor Games will take place June 6-9 at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond North High School and the Lake Arcadia Outdoor Adventure Recreation Center.