Special Olympics spring games held in Chicago this week

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Chicago is the birthplace of the Special Olympics. (WLS)

Four thousand athletes kicked off the Special Olympics spring games on Monday, which runs in Chicago this week.

Athletes practiced for weeks to participate in more than 25 track and field events, including running, shot put and softball throw.

"I wanna win because I've been practicing at home and I feel good," said athlete Levi Macias.

The cheers from fans and smiles from the podium are a celebration of joy and accomplishment.

Chicago is the birthplace of Special Olympics where the program is the largest in the country with about 5,000 athletes competing.

"It's real easy to be a proud coach when you have really great athlete," said coach Ray Baker.

The team from Lindblom High School also won the Keith Magnuson Spirit Award, named after the former Blackhawks star who was a staunch supporter of the Special Olympics.

His son now runs the Chicago chapter.

"We saw how important it was to him and then it became important to us," said his son Kevin Magnuson, of the Special Olympics.

Current athletes, including Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling, also support the games. Darling showed up Monday to volunteer without telling anyone.

"I been handing out medals all day, it's been awesome to see the hard work pay off," Darling said.

He was busy as everyone at the Special Olympics gets a medal.
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