Timothy Dempsey, of Federal Way, and Nicholas Rasmussen, of Kent, beat out the competition playing "Forza Motorsport 7" during the Special Olympics.
It took hours of practice and a chance meeting for the winning team at the first-ever Special Olympics Xbox tournament to overtake seven other pairs and emerge victorious.
Timothy Dempsey, of Federal Way, and Nicholas Rasmussen, of Kent, scooped up the most points while racing cars in “Forza Motorsports 7” at the competition Monday at the University of Washington.
The event marked the first time the Special Olympics USA Games sported a video gaming tournament, which pitted eight teams of two against each other. Each team was made up of an athlete with intellectual disabilities and a unified partner who played at the same time. Their racing times were combined and compared to other teams’ during the rounds Monday.
Winning athlete Dempsey said he was “speechless” Monday after taking home the top prize, an Xbox One X engraved with the Special Olympics name and logo.
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Dempsey almost didn’t make it into the Games at all. The 29-year-old was scheduled to work his job at Wild Waves water park in Federal Way on the April night of the qualifying tournament in Bellevue, but his shift was canceled and he decided to drive north.
Meanwhile, about eight miles away, 22-year-old Rasmussen had heard recently from a relative who works for Special Olympics Washington. The organization was looking for people skilled at playing video games to come to Bellevue and play as unified partners at the qualifying tournament, so he volunteered.
Rasmussen and Dempsey were paired up that night, and easily made it into the finals.
“The competition was a bit tougher this time around,” Rasmussen said, noting he got a bit nervous as he watched how skilled the other players were.
The team had practiced together a few times a week since April, playing each other online on Xbox Live when their schedules would permit. It paid off, and Dempsey and Rasmussen took home the customized Xbox consoles after nearly three hours of Special Olympics gameplay.
Microsoft sponsored the gaming tournament as part of its overall partnership with the Special Olympics. The software firm has a growing focus on accessible technology throughout the company. Its gaming division recently developed an adaptive controller that makes it easier for people with disabilities to play video games.