World Games Athlete Spotlight: Alyssa Neil
Neil, along with three other athletes from Massachusetts is part of the 200+ person Special Olympics team from the United States. This is not her first time hopping on a plane to compete for Special Olympics. Alyssa attended the Athens World Summer Games in 2011 in track and South Korea 2013 in speed skating. “When I saw that I was chosen to go to world games this year I was watching it live on Facebook and I just screamed.” When asked what it means to her to be representing the USA again, she responded, “It’s such an honor. When I was younger I didn’t have a lot of friends and Special Olympics Massachusetts gave me the opportunity to make friends and travel. I still keep in touch with my former USA Special Olympics team members who live all over the country. It is an honor to be able to experience the culture of other countries and represent the United States.”
Training has been an important part of preparing for World Games. After getting in shape with her local team in November, Special Olympics USA came together as a team in Vermont back in early December to meet, bond and begin their training. While at training camp the speed skating team, made up of nine skaters from across the country, put in three-hour workouts each day – both on dry land and on the ice. Neil said, “It was great seeing all the different abilities everyone has and they all bring something different to the team. It was nice to meet the coaches also. Some of the coaches are the same as previous World Games which is good because they know the athletes and how hard to work us.” Other than training, her favorite part of camp was the “Austrian folk singer who came and sang and told stories about Austria. It was so nice to see a little piece of the culture we will be hearing and seeing while in Austria.”
Without her family’s support none of this would be possible. Travelling with Neil to Austria are her mom, dad and grandfather. This is the first time that her grandfather and father are travelling abroad. When considering her family’s support while competing Neil expressed, “I am very excited to prove myself to my family. With them there it will make me work harder to show that I can do it.”
Although the competition will take up most of her time, Neil is also interested in being a part of the host town program which takes place the week before competition. The host town program offers athletes and coaches from around the world the opportunity to see and experience the most beautiful sights of the country led by volunteer host towns and families. She also wants to visit some of the beautiful Abbeys in Austria with her family and teammates.
Overall, she says, “my favorite part of speed skating is the adrenaline rush I feel when I pass an opponent and beat them to the finish line,” explained Neil. Here’s to hoping that she feels that adrenaline rush many times during her two weeks of competition and that she achieves all her goals. Congratulations Alyssa Neil! Now go and show the world what you can do!