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Team South Carolina heads to Special Olympics USA Games

Athletes from across the state gathered in Blythewood for a send-off to the national competition.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Team South Carolina gathered for a send-off in Blythewood, Saturday, ahead of the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida. 

The team of nearly 200 athletes and their family members packed their bags and waved goodbye to the Palmetto State as they headed to the national competition.

This isn't the first Special Olympics for track and field athlete Skyy Cope, but she's just as excited as before. 

"Go, South Carolina!” Cope chanted with a big smile.

The Richland County athlete said she's been prepping for the competition with a lot of long walks around her neighborhood. Head coach Hannah Helms and her cheerleading team from Swansea are also going for the gold.

"They tumble, and they do pyramids, they do everything that the other cheerleaders do," Helms said. "They worked really hard to train for this, it’s not something you can just come and do.”

Helms said the team has been practicing for a year and, for most of them, this will be their first time in Florida. 

"It’s given them opportunities that they never would have otherwise gotten so we’re really excited about it,” said Helms.

Helms said through fundraising; the Special Olympics takes care of all expenses for athletes to travel and compete. 

"The only thing my students had to help raise was $50 a person, which is amazing for a nine-day trip at Disney,” she said.

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While they’ll be working hard to win, they’re excited to have some fun too. 

"We’re gonna party all night baby," one cheerleader said jokingly.

Athletes are excited to be back at the Special Olympics after the pandemic halted the games in 2020. Team South Carolina is composed of nearly 200 people competing in 17 different sports. Disney World is hosting this year’s Special Olympics, which runs from June 5 to June 12.

RELATED: South Carolina virtual students celebrate graduation in person

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