Andrew Richardson hopes to win medals at the Baltimore Special Olympics Spring Games. He hopes to run very fast races and he hopes his jumps are very high and far.
But mostly, the 18-year-old student at the George W. F. McMechen Junior-Senior High School hopes to be a competitor at the games for many years to come.
"I think I can win and I'm going to try. I won some [events] last year," Mr. Richardson said.
For most of the Special Olympics athletes, winning or losing is outweighed by the thrill of competing.
More than 1,000 participants attended the games yesterday at the Johns Hopkins University.
The competition, which will continue tomorrow, attracted athletes whose ages range from 8 to adult, and who attend either special schools or public schools that serve students with special needs, said Leslie Brudenell, director of the games.
The athletes raced by foot and in wheelchairs, and they jumped and hopped and threw balls, often in a somewhat awkward manner and not always on target. But no one seemed to notice or care.
"As long as you make a good effort at what you do, that's all anyone expects or can expect. If you try hard, you've already won," one of the group leaders told her charges before the events began.
To many of the competitors, the sporting events are the culmination of yearlong goals and a dominant part of their lives.
Winners from the city competition go on to the state games in June.
Leon Stafford, 12, a student at the Lois T. Murray School, said the games are important for reasons other than athletics.
"I want to be somebody," Leon said. "This is a way I can do that."
Leon, who has competed in the Special Olympics for many years, said he feels quite comfortable competing against other special athletes and wishes the games were held more often.
He trained some for the games, but not a lot.
"I think that I can do a lot of these things already. This is a lot of fun," he said. Of course he has another motive for competing every year. "Iget to meet girls there."
To some -- and maybe most -- their intent in the games does not involve bronze, silver or gold medals. Their strategies in the games and their lives is basic: just get out there and do the best you can.
"They just like to be able to interact with some of the other kids at different levels," said Mary Wallace, a teacher at the George W. F. McMechen School, adding: "That's why a lot of them are here." The school, located at 4411 Garrison Blvd., serves students with special needs.
Charles Parker, 18, a student at Claremont School, at 5301 Erdman Ave., said he trained only a month for some of the sprints. He won no medals but made many friends.
"I see how hard it is sometimes to run fast," he said. "I run a lot faster than I used to. But I like to run and I'll run next year."