The first Virtual Endeavor Games were a big success.
The pandemic kept the University of Central Oklahoma from hosting the Endeavor Games on its campus, as per usual. Instead, participants completed their events in their own communities and submitted their results electronically.
But despite the virtual format, the jitters Anthony Quinn felt before he ran his race were very real.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” says Quinn, a left below-knee amputee who hopes to make the US Paralympic team in 2021 in the 400 meters. “It was a little unusual, given that it was just me and my wife driving up to the local high school track. But once we got into the car, my mentality switched into race mode. I had everything in my bag that I usually have for any official track meet. I did all my usual warmup drills, my practice starts, my stretches. For me, it was a good way to experience the pressure of a regular meet.”
Quinn (who you can follow on Instagram @texasbladerunner) hasn’t participated in full-blown competition since the 2019 Texas Regional Games, more than a year ago. Since then he’s been sidelined by a sore Achilles and the COVID-19 quarantine. He probably would have missed out on the Endeavor Games, too, if they hadn’t gone virtual.
“I wouldn’t have been able to participate if they’d held the event in Oklahoma,” Quinn says. “Not with my work schedule. But when they decided to have it in a virtual format, that made it possible for me to register.”
Quinn’s not alone. Because the virtual format allowed competitors to participate from their own communities, rather than traveling to Edmonds, Oklahoma, or Fort Wayne, Indiana, this year’s Endeavor Games included more para athletes from more places than ever before. Event coordinator Cassidhe Walker reports that the event set new records both in total participants (460) and states represented (43). There were also registrants from two U.S. territories and seven foreign countries.
By the numbers, then, the Endeavor Games were an unqualified success. But what about the experience itself?
“It was great for me,” says Quinn. “I needed to get that intensity and pressure back on me again so I can get used to it. Staying calm mentally is a big part of any competition. You can get so anxious and so amped up that you cut corners instead of going through your routine, doing all your stretching and all of your preparation. You can get to where you just hurry through all that stuff because you want to get to the race. I can’t say enough about the Endeavor Games staff for keeping the event going this year and giving athletes like myself a chance to compete.”
Obviously, the need for social distance made it impossible to have the camaraderie and friendships of previous Endeavor Games. The last time he ran in person, back in 2015, Quinn’s number-one mission focused on his friendly rivalry with Gideon Connelly.
“I’ve only beat him once in my entire life,” says Quinn, “and it was at that Endeavor Games in 2015. Every other time I’ve raced him, he’s completely smoked me. But that one time, I was able to win by a hair.”
Over the years, Quinn has come to appreciate another aspect of in-person competition. Because he lost his leg at age four, limb loss seems natural to him—he doesn’t need role models to help him adjust to a new way of life. It’s just a part of his identity.
“But I’ve come to understand that for new amputees, it’s a big impact for them to see all those competitors living life to the fullest, being active, competing,” he says. “That’s something I’ve slowly accepted. Just by being at an event like the Endeavor Games in person, I may be helping other people mentally—not only amputees but also their families and their caregivers.”
Head over to the Endeavor Games website for the full results of 2020’s virtual events.