Massachusetts Athletes Represent at Special Olympics World Winter Games

The skates are sharpened, the skis are waxed and there’s only six weeks left of training for the biggest competition of their lives. On March 12, 2017 Patrick Adams, Alyssa Neil, Chris O’Neil and Rebecca Robinson will be boarding a plane heading to Special Olympics World Winter Games in Graz/Schladming, Austria. Neil and Adams both speed skaters, and O’Neil and Robinson alpine skiers, have been training for this moment since they started as Special Olympics athletes.

sowwga17_logo_horizontalMore than a year ago, the selection process begain when they each applied to represent Special Olympics USA at the 2017 World Winter Games. I
n January of 2016, after a stringent process,  they were informed of their selection to Special Olympics USA by Special Olympics Massachusetts. Following months of training, including a specialized alpine ski training camp for O’Neil and Robinson in June, they headed to Special Olympics USA training camp in Killington, Vermont in early December. While in Killington their spot on Special Olympics USA was made official and training began, including meeting their coaches and teammates, working on their skills, and preparing to travel internationally to represent the United States of America.

But before they head off the represent our state and country in Austria, we would like to introduce you to these world class athletes.1a_so_usa__primary_2c

adamsPatrick Adams, Enfield, CT, competing in speed skating, Special Olympics athlete for fourteen years. Adams will be speed skating for Special Olympics USA in Austria. Adams has competed previously in one World Games for speed skating and one National Games in unified soccer. “Patrick is very excited to go to the World Games in Austria,” Jeff, Patrick’s father said. “He makes it a point to tell people where he’s going.”

neilAlyssa Neil, Holyoke, MA, competing in speed skating, Special Olympics athlete for fourteen years. Besides speed skating, Neil also plays soccer and runs track. Neil has competed in two World games previously. She went to Greece in 2011 for track and South Korea in 2013 for speed skating. “I get to experience new cultures and meet different people from all over the world,” said Neil. “I’m really excited for the World Games, it means I’ve accomplished a lot especially in my skating. The USA has given us with disabilities the same opportunity as those without,” Neil said.

oneilChristopher O’Neil, Westford, MA, competing in alpine skiing, Special Olympics athlete for fifteen years. O’Neil is very proud to represent the USA as an alpine skier. This is his first time competing at World Games. An avid skier since he was eight years old, when asked what he is most excited about in going to World Games O’Neil responded “It will be cool to see another country and people from those countries.”

robinsonRebecca Robinson, Concord, MA, competing in alpine skiing, Special Olympics athlete for ten years. This is Robinson’s first World Games experience. She loves to be outside biking and hiking, and participates in biking for Special Olympics Massachusetts. When asked why she is excited to attend World Games, Robinson said, “I will be able to meet new people from all over the world. My work colleagues and family are very proud of me and excited about the World Games.”

Special Olympics World Games happens every two years, when athletes from around the world, come together to demonstrate their athletic ability and send a message of inclusion to the world. Alternating between winter and summer sports, 2017 marks the 40th Special Olympics Winter World Games, with 2,700 athletes, 1,100 coaches, 3,000 volunteers and 107 participating nations. The games will be held in Graz, Schladming, and Ramsau Austria from Tuesday, March 14 through Saturday, March 25, 2017. The Games eight days of competition include nine Olympic-type competition sports: floorball, floor hockey, stick shooting, figure skating, speed skating, alpine skiing, snowboarding, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. Non-sporting events at the games include opening and closing ceremonies; host town program; healthy athletes; schools program; family programs; and the Law Enforcement Torch Run’s “The Flame of Hope.”

A big congratulations to Adams, Neil, O’Neil and Robinson who were chosen out of thousands of Special Olympics Massachusetts athletes to be a part of the 210-person US National Team. Best of luck to them as they represent the United States of America in this international competition that sends a message of inclusion, acceptance, and respect worldwide. Check back for more on their experiences and  progress.







MLS All-Star Week Day 2: Match Day

Tuesday kicked off with a quick breakfast where James checked in with a recap of his first day with his new team.

After the most important meal of the day, James and Julia took the the training field for the final time before the evening’s Match against the Western Conference. Just before taking the pitch, the twins got their head shots and Team Special Olympics Massachusetts photos taken.


The Keiths joined all of the Special Olympics Unified teammates for a group lunch and relaxed before heading out to Avaya Stadium for the MLS Works Special Olympics Unified All-Star Match presented by ESPN.


At the stadium, the Unified team was greeted by fans looking for autographs and cheering on the athletes. ESPN commentator and former New England Revolution star, Taylor Twellman gave a pep talk and let the East know he was cheering for them! Coach Anthony from Special Olympics D.C. also addressed the team and then they took the field to cheers!




The game was live-streamed on the Special Olympics Massachusetts Facebook Page and the video will remain available. The action was back and forth, but the Eastern conference managed to score twice in the first half! Julia held strong as a defender for the East who kept the West out of the goal through the first 30 minute period. Both players were interviewed at the half (video below).

In the second half, James was inserted as the goalkeeper with the pressure of holding the lead squarely on his shoulders. The West stepped up their attack but James was ready for the challenge; making six saves and keeping a clean sheet, giving the East the victory!

After the game, fans made their way down to the field to cheer on the athletes as they received their medals. Once the ceremonies wrapped up, the athletes and partners signed autographs. One of the signatures most in-demand was James Keith – the “Dab Goalie”, a name given to him by the fans who cheered him on throughout the second half because of his celebratory dance move.


The evening wrapped up with a team dinner at Johnny Rockets with Milk Shake Cheers all around! After getting their fill of food, the twins headed over to catch the end of the “Men in Blazers” show and ran into Brian Bilello – the President of the New England Revolution. Brian was nice enough to stop and have a good chat with the Special Olympics Massachusetts crew before snapping this great pic:

New England Revolution President, Brian Bilello with James & Julia.

New England Revolution President, Brian Bilello with Julia & James.

Special Olympics World Games. Athlete HQ: Brandon Wood

Brandon Wood is an aquatics athlete from Westfield, MA.


World Games Highlights/Results:

100 Meter Freestyle: BRONZE

4 x 100 Meter Relay: GOLD

200 Meter Freestyle: SILVER

100 Breaststroke: BRONZE

Incredible effort by Brandon. We learned that World Games takes a lot of endurance and energy. Brandon was able to stay strong and consistent all week. We are very proud of Brandon. Congratulations, B-Wood!!

Video of Brandon finishing first in preliminary round of 200-meter freestyle:

Video interview with Brandon and teammate Amanda Church:

Brandon with his brothers after winning Silver. According to Brandon’s dad Bill, there’s “nothing better!”


Brandon (far right) with swimming legend Michael Phelps:

Phelps w/ Special Olympics USA

Brandon (white cap) at finish line:


B-Wood rockin the GOLD:


Special Olympics World Games. Athlete HQ: Amanda Church

Amanda Church is a swimmer from Easton, MA, currently living on Cape Cod.










World Games Highlights/Results:

Before World Games even started, Amanda wrote a feature column in ESPN The Magazine! Click here for the article.

Here is an article from the Cape Cod Times written about Amanda and Michael Shapiro before they left for LA: Click here for the Article.

200 M Breaststroke: SILVER

4 by 50 M Relay: BRONZE

100 M Breaststroke: 5th

100 M Freestyle: 8th

Amanda swam A LOT all week and kept bringning it! While she did excellent in her preliminary races and throughout the week, she earned her best finishes about an hour apart from one another on the last day; a Silver in the 200-meter breaststroke and a Bronze to close out the Games in the 4 x 50. Just an incredible effort by an incredible young lady. Amanda: YOU ROCK!

Here is video of Amanda swimming a preliminary round in the 100-meter freestyle (white cap, lane 5):

Here is an interview with Amanda and her teammate Brandon Wood:

Amanda and her teammates had a chance to meet swimming legend Michael Phelps (Amanda in white shirt kneeling):

Phelps w/ Special Olympics USA

Can you tell Amanda’s family is proud of her?










Amanda (Left) and her teammate Jenny Harrington:


Special Olympics World Games. Athlete HQ: Mike Shapiro

Mike Shapiro is a track-and-field athlete from Cape Cod

Mike anchoring his team in relay prelim

Mike anchoring his team in relay prelim










World Games Highlights:

Here is an article from the Cape Cod Times written about Mike and Amanda Church before they left for LA: Click here for the Article.

4 x 100-meter relay: BRONZE (where Mike anchored team in a photo finish)

Shot-put: 5th

100-meter-dash: 8th

Here is a quick video of Mike competing in shot-put:

Here is a video interview with Mike after his preliminary round of shot-put:

Here are some pictures with Mike and his friends and family:

Mike, friends, and family

Mike Shapiro's Friends and Family

Special Olympics World Games. Athlete HQ: Jenny Harrington

Jenny Harrington is an aquatics athlete from Brookline, MA.

Triumphant JennyPhoto via Bank of America

World Games Highlights/Results:

GOLD in the Medlay Relay

SILVER in the 100-meter freestyle.

SILVER in the 200-meter freestyle

5TH in the 400-meter freestyle

The aquatics competition at World Games is one of endurance and toughness. Jenny showed that and more, racing 8 times over 6 days. She had a tough back-to-back on Day 5 that may have prevented a fourth medal. Overall though, Jenny BROUGHT IT all week and earned a lot of hardware that’ll last a lifetime. We are so incredibly proud of her.

Jenny was also featured in the Los Angeles Daily News!

Here is footage of Jenny racing in the 100-meter freestyle preliminary round (in white hat):

An interview with Jenny at World Games (she discusses meeting First Lady Michelle Obama):

Jenny and her teammates receiving their gold medals!

Jenny on the medal stand:

Jenny (right) and her teammate Amanda Church:

Amanda and Jenny



Special Olympics World Games athlete HQ: Chris Drewniak.

Chris Drewniak is a bowler from Ludlow, MA.

Presentation of gift pin!

World Games Highlights/Results:

Chris bowled an incredible 195, his personal best, in his preliminary/divisioning round on Monday. Unfortunately that high score came back to haunt him today as it propelled Chris to a higher division in the medal round. Chris faced an uphill battle in the Singles Finals, but came up short of a medal, scoring a three-round total of 291. He also combined with teammate Arthur to score a 686 in Team Doubles. This was just short of a bronze medal performance. Chris has done a GREAT job representing Massachusetts and Special Olympics USA all week. Don’t take our word for it. Check out some pictures and videos:

At Opening Ceremonies, Chris met Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States. In fact, Mrs. Obama tweeted out the following photo from Opening Ceremonies, and Chris is right over her left shoulder:

First Lady and Team USA

Chris Thumbs up

Drewniak Family and Friends