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Featured Competitor: Hooper, Golfer, Bowler Mark Eberhardt

For Mark Eberhardt, competing in the Special Olympics isn’t just a fun way to fill downtime, it’s a way of life. He spends the winter months fine-tuning his jumpshot, the spring and summer perfecting his golf swing, and the fall, chasing turkeys around the bowling alley.

It’s been Mark’s annual routine for years: practice, compete, rinse and repeat.

In 2015, he participated in the Rip City 3-on-3 tournament, Portland’s premier amateur hoops event, for the eighth time, taking home a silver medal. “We had a pretty good team, but we came up short,” said Mark. “Hopefully (we’ll win) this year.”

Ascending to the podium was a definite highlight in Mark’s competitive experience, but that experience goes far beyond just medals and trophies.

“Mark has grown a lot since he began participating in Special Olympics,” said his mom Leona Eberhardt. “He more readily accepts the losses with the wins. In the beginning, he would pout, but now he’s better about it. He talks about teamwork. He shares the ball.”

Mark’s Special Olympics journey, which began with a medal-winning performance in track and field in his first summer games, hasn’t been one he’s made alone. “Mark has a lifelong friend who started track and field with him many years ago, they both still participate,” said Leona.

She points out the importance of family support as well. “I make certain Mark gets to his practice and tournaments on time, almost all of which I’m able to stay and watch,” she said. “His family supports him 100 percent; he knows that.”

This year’s Rip City 3-on-3 Tournament is expecting roughly 2,000 players on almost 500 different teams, with competitive divisions spanning youth (boys and girls), high school (boys and girls), adult (men, women and co-ed teams), elite (men and women), the Special Olympics division and the Unified Sports division. It will be held in Portland’s Rose Quarter on July 30 and 31.

Anyone interested in volunteering or registering an athlete should visit the official tournament website. You can also “like” the Facebook event page, or follow @RipCity3on3 on Twitter and Instagram for more information.  

“When I watch Mark play, I look to see if he’s playing as a team member,” said Leona. “Special Olympics teaches the athletes to be proud of who they are, to believe in themselves and to be fearless in trying their best together.”

Les Schwab Tire Centers is proud to sponsor the Rip City 3-on-3 Tournament and athletes like Mark again this year.

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