Going for gold at the Special Olympics
Going for gold at the Special Olympics Winter Games
On a chilly winter Saturday in upstate New York, even an ice rink seems warm to an athlete and viewer. The rhythmic sounds of skates biting during warmups accompany the friendly chatter amongst competitors. Teams prepare for their opening face-offs after encouraging words from their coaches. Smiles full of joy and anticipation blanket the room as the performances begin.
Syracuse hosted the Special Olympics’ New York Winter Games featuring figure skating and speed skating, floor hockey, nordic skiing, alpine skiing and snowshoeing at the Oncenter, War Memorial and area parks and ski hills. More than 500 athletes traveled across the state to show their skills to the Olympic committee.
The annual event kicked off Friday night with an opening ceremony at the Oncenter that recognized the participating athletes.
“It’s really where all the athletes from across the state get together for the first time and celebrate being here,” said Casey Vattimo, senior vice president of external affairs for the Special Olympics.
Vattimo said many athletes train for our up to eight weeks prior to the games in order to be ready for “their time to go for the gold.” Also, she noted that an event of this size could not have been executed without the help of over 300 volunteers.
In terms of the experience during the games, volunteer figure skating coach Emi Freese said it has had, “the most positive vibes that you’ll ever have in a condensed weekend.”
After weeks of practicing in outdoor skating rinks in the freezing cold month of January, Freese was very pleased by the hard work all athletes — with a special shoutout to her own two skaters — have put in to be at the games.
The positivity of the Special Olympics experience was displayed by everyone, especially the fans. For every performance and game, fans cheered for all competitors, admiring their passion. Coaches rallied their participants from the sideline, shouting advice and acknowledging their efforts. Players celebrated their achievements with their friends.
Rochester figure skater Emma Cahill said everything about her experience has been wonderful. With her positive energy and infectious smile, she said, “being with all [her] friends,” was her favorite part of the games. In her dazzling red dress, she brilliantly executed her performance, hitting every turn and skating with confidence. Although she was competing and had aspirations for gold, she enthusiastically cheered for every skater.
Albany floor hockey goalie and defensemen Philip Isaacson also said how privileged he felt to be playing with his friends and teammates. He expressed his passion for the game and was enthused by his team’s performance.
The games contained the perfect combination of competition and sportsmanship. Congratulatory words were exchanged after every performance and game, while competition levels peaked the closer each event reached its finish. Every performer demonstrated why they were chosen to participate. Their kindness, determination, grit, and passion embodied that of a true Olympian.
After the game, a closing ceremony commenced on Saturday night where medals were received and celebrations began.