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.
More 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.
Patrick 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.”
Alyssa 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.
Christopher 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.”
Rebecca 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.