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YAB Hosts 39th Kanto Plains Special Olympics

An athlete sprints through the finish line of the 4x100 meter relay race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.

An athlete sprints through the finish line of the 4x100 meter relay race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. As the KPSO celebrates its 39th games, this marks the 50th year of competition provided by the Special Olympics worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete buddy sprints next to his athlete as the crowd cheers them on during the 4x100 meter relay race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.

An athlete buddy sprints next to his athlete as the crowd cheers them on during the 4x100 meter relay race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. The motto of the Special Olympics states, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in attempt.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

Five volunteer athlete buddies cheer on an athlete during the 4x100 meter relay race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.

Five volunteer athlete buddies cheer on an athlete during the 4x100 meter relay race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. Since 1968, the Special Olympics has provided year-round sports training and competition to 5 million athletes with intellectual disabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete and her athlete buddy run through the finish line of 4x100 meter relay race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.

An athlete and her athlete buddy run through the finish line of 4x100 meter relay race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. The motto of the Special Olympics states, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in attempt.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete lands in the sand during the standing long jump competition of the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.

An athlete lands in the sand during the standing long jump competition of the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. For this year’s games, over 300 athletes of all ages from 10 different local schools competed for gold. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete grabs the wall to complete his 15 meter breaststroke race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.

An athlete grabs the wall to complete his 15 meter breaststroke race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. As the KPSO celebrates its 39th games, this marks the 50th year of competition provided by the Special Olympics worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete stretches out to grab the wall while competing in the 15 meter breaststroke race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.

An athlete stretches out to grab the wall while competing in the 15 meter breaststroke race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. Since 1968, the Special Olympics has provided year-round sports training and competition to 5 million athletes with intellectual disabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete strikes the ball towards goal during the soccer shoot competition of the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.

An athlete strikes the ball towards goal during the soccer shoot competition of the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. For this year’s games, over 300 athletes of all ages from 10 different local schools competed for gold. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete tosses a Frisbee through a hoop of the flying disc competition during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.

An athlete tosses a Frisbee through a hoop of the flying disc competition during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. The motto of the Special Olympics states, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in attempt.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete receives a gold medal as participants cheer him on for his success during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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An athlete receives a gold medal as participants cheer him on for his success during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. Since 1968, the Special Olympics has provided year-round sports training and competition to 5 million athletes with intellectual disabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete pops up for air during the 15 meter breaststroke during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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An athlete pops up for air during the 15 meter breaststroke during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. As the KPSO celebrates its 39th games, this marks the 50th year of competition provided by the Special Olympics worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete lunges for the wall during the 15 meter water walking competition during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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An athlete lunges for the wall during the 15 meter water walking competition during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. The motto of the Special Olympics states, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in attempt.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

Four Airmen carry the colors at the front of the athlete parade during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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Four Airmen carry the colors at the front of the athlete parade during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. Since 1968, the Special Olympics has provided year-round sports training and competition to 5 million athletes with intellectual disabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

The athletes representing Shirayuri wave to the crowd during the opening parade of the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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The athletes representing Shirayuri wave to the crowd during the opening parade of the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. For this year’s games, over 300 athletes from 10 different local schools competed for gold. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

Athletes and volunteers march in the opening parade of the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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Athletes and volunteers march in the opening parade of the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. For this year’s games, over 300 athletes from 10 different local schools competed for gold. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

The athletes and coaches from Shirayuri pose for a photo immediately following the parade portion of the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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The athletes and coaches from Shirayuri pose for a photo immediately following the parade portion of the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. With the KPSO originating in 1980, Yokota is hosting the 39th iteration of the games. (U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete prepares to the light the torch signifying the beginning of the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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An athlete prepares to the light the torch signifying the beginning of the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. As the torch was lit, the 39th annual KPSO allowed over 300 athletes with intellectual disabilities to compete in a variety of sporting events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

A set of volunteers leads warm-up exercises at the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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A set of volunteers leads warm-up exercises at the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. As the KPSO celebrates its 39th games, this marks the 50th year of competition provided by the Special Olympics worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete poses for a photo after winning gold in the 50 meter sprint during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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An athlete poses for a photo after winning gold in the 50 meter sprint during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. As the KPSO celebrates its 39th games, this marks the 50th year of competition provided by the Special Olympics worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete receives her medal during the medal ceremony of the 50 meter sprint during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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An athlete receives her medal during the medal ceremony of the 50 meter sprint during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. With the KPSO originating in 1980, Yokota is hosting the 39th iteration of the games. (U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

Athletes celebrate receiving their medals during the medal ceremony of the 50 meter sprint during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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Athletes celebrate receiving their medals during the medal ceremony of the 50 meter sprint during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. Since 1968, the Special Olympics has provided year-round sports training and competition to 5 million athletes with intellectual disabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

Athletes with their athlete buddies sprint to the finish line of the 50 meter race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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Athletes with their athlete buddies sprint to the finish line of the 50 meter race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. For this year’s games, over 300 athletes of all ages from 10 different local schools competed for gold. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

An athlete sprints to the finish line in the 50 meter race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018.
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An athlete sprints to the finish line in the 50 meter race during the Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018. The motto of the Special Olympics states, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in attempt.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Gilmore)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- An overwhelming, unforgettable and simply contagious smile. No matter if they finished first or last, their smiles were constant and true. The day was not about winning, it was about trying no matter what obstacles stood in the way.

The Special Olympics credo states “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.”

For the 300 plus athletes who competed in the 39th annual Kanto Plains Special Olympics at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 19, 2018, that oath was all about the courage to try time and time again.

“This was my first time competing in the Special Olympics so I was a little nervous,” said Miles Kartchner, 8 year old and three time swimming gold medalist from Yokota. “I want to become a tough and strong swimmer so I’ve been taking swim lessons for half of a year to get ready for this. I had a lot of fun today.”

That feeling of fun and the smiles that accompanied it could be seen on the face of not just the athletes but every volunteer who took part in the KPSO.

“Today was a day for all of us to come out here and forget about all of the problems we potentially have in our own lives,” said Chuck Kropog, 374th Civil Engineer Squadron NCO in charge of facility maintenance. “These athletes really do have a sense of innocence about them and they each came out here and didn’t let anything hold them back. Win or lose, no matter the obstacles they each faced, their attitudes are something I am sure no one involved in this event will forget.

“Of the 1000 plus volunteers from all branches of service, Koku Jietai(JASDF) and the local area, I can safely say each had a day filled with touching moments.”

For the volunteers who were lucky enough to be athlete buddies, they were not only able to be a part of their athlete’s journey from start to finish of every competition but to truly bond with them.

“Today was a rollercoaster of emotions for both my athlete and I,” said Samuel Mislyan, 374th Communications Squadron Operations Flight client systems technician and athlete buddy for the event. “From the moment she met me she just gave me this gigantic hug and was just so elated to meet me and I couldn’t help but be equally excited to meet her.

“After such an emotional start to our day together and being able to be there to guide and cheer her on in every race we had together really created a memory for me that I know I will never forget. I made a great friend today.”

As the event left everyone involved with lifelong memories it would never have been possible without the collective efforts of all of the volunteers that worked and coordinated the event.

“I think what we accomplished in putting the KPSO together here just goes to show the level of good you can do when you have that unity,” said Kropog. “If we put our differences aside and really find that common bond, we can do a lot of good in this world.

“Together we gave these athletes a day they aren’t going to forget. It was an experience I know I will always remember. To all of the volunteers, thank you for making this happen. To all of the athletes, thank you for showing us true courage and the power of a smile. I can’t wait to see all of you next year.”