An Interview with Eloise, a Special Olympics World Winter Games Figure Skater

Over the Special Olympics World Winter Games, I had the amazing privilege to meet so many incredible people from around the world. To get to¬†the Opening Ceremony, for example, I got one of the last seats on the South African delegation’s bus. This was such a cool experience because I became friends with many of the players and the head of the delegation. In addition, I met Sue and David Carruthers, the parents of Eloise, who competed in Figure Skating for Team GB.

Throughout the week, I ran into Team South Africa and the Caruthers a few times, and I’m very glad I did. Both groups really contributed to how much I enjoyed the Games. On March 21, I interviewed Eloise for my blog, which was really cool because she is one of the best female figure skaters in Level 4 skating in the world.

Here’s the video. Please excuse the poor sound quality. It was hard to find a quiet place at the rink!

The video ends with Eloise’s free skate, which I just made it to see on Thursday! She won seventh place, and her skating was absolutely beautiful.

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It was really fun to meet and cheer for Eloise at the World Games! ūüėÄ

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From SONY to SOSC

May 13 was my last day at Special Olympics New York City. I was really sad to leave because the employees and athletes had become my family. I will definitely volunteer with them again in the fall because interning at Special Olympics NYC changed my life. I started out very quiet but determined to be a good intern, and I ended as a super intern with a really strong passion for Special Olympics!

IMG_2151.jpgHere is a look back at my five favorite parts of interning at Special Olympics NYC:

  1. Fall State Games

This was my first State Games as an intern, and I really enjoyed¬†it! It was different from my first New York State Games because I actually knew a lot of the staff and the athletes, and I was there with my friends/co-workers from Special Olympics NYC, Amy, Kaitlin, Sam, and Bill. I was stationed at Equestrian, which was so much fun to see. Before that, I had never seen Special Olympics Equestrian¬†because NYC doesn’t have it. All in all, it was a magical experience. Seeing the love Special Olympics athletes have for their sports while they’re competing makes me so happy, and that love was definitely there all day.

Here’s my blog post about the Fall State Games: ¬† ¬†https://theolympicsofblogs.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/special-olympics-new-york-fall-state-games/

2. Metro Tournament

This was my first Special Olympics NYC competition, and it took place May 30, 2015, right after I started my internship. This day was so exciting, and it gave me a really good look into Special Olympics. I met some awesome¬†athletes, including¬†three athletes who ran the Flame of Hope in with Law Enforcement officers, Valerie (who won a gold medal at the National Games), Thomas (who would compete at the World Games later in the summer), and Doug (Thomas’ dad and also a fierce Special Olympics competitor). I took photos throughout the day, and being given free reign to wander around the competition allowed me to fully immerse myself in Special Olympics. My favorite event was the Powerlifting because each Powerlifter¬†competed with a different persona (see the photo below of the Skullcrusher).

Here’s my blog post about the Metro Tournament: ¬† ¬†https://theolympicsofblogs.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/countdown-to-the-world-games-day-3/

3. Halloween!

Although this wasn’t an official Special Olympics event, it still is one of my favorite moments while working at Special Olympics New York. Luckily Halloween fell on a Friday, so I was able to celebrate it while at the office! The day contained a lot of eating, sugar highs, scaring people with masks, and a pi√Īata! It was a really fun day spent being with my Special Olympics family. ‚̧

4. Winter State Games

These Games had some of the best competition that I’ve seen since I’ve started working for Special Olympics. Thanks to a really nice volunteer photographer, I was able to see Cross-Country Skiing, Alpine Skiing, Snowshoe, and Figure Skating, in addition to watching the Opening Ceremony and dancing in the Closing Ceremony! Watching the skiing and snowshoe competitions was really fun because I have no background in those sports. I had never even watched someone ski in real life before! Of course, the Figure Skating was still my favorite. I love watching the athletes play to the audience and seeing the audience react with cheers and applause.

Here’s my blog post about the 2016 Winter State Games: https://theolympicsofblogs.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/the-2016-winter-state-games/

5. Anytime with Special Olympics Athletes

Special Olympics athletes are some of the best people I know. After a year at Special Olympics New York, I know how hard they work to accomplish everything they do, and it’s really amazing and inspiring.

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It has been an incredible year at Special Olympics New York City. Last summer, I said I pass the flame for happiness, and Special Olympics does mean happiness for me. ¬†Even though I left Special Olympics New York, I’m carrying that flame of happiness with me to my internship at Special Olympics Southern California this summer. Thank you to everyone who made Special Olympics New York special. ūüôā

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The 2016 Winter State Games

One of the things that makes me happiest is Special Olympics competitions. I love supporting the athletes, and I love watching them win. This past weekend at Special Olympics New York’s Winter State Games, I was able to do just that, which¬†probably explains why I couldn’t stop smiling¬†throughout the Games.

Special Olympics New York’s Winter State Games, one of three state competitions where athletes from around New York qualify to compete, was held February 19 and 20 in Poughkeepsie, New York. The town of Poughkeepsie was an amazing host and even put up Special Olympics New York flags around the town and featured our athletes on the front page of the newspaper.

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The Games started with an Opening Ceremony in the Mid-Hudson Civic Center. The amount of love and support inside of the Civic Center was astounding. The stands were completely filled, the lines of volunteers cheering and high fiving athletes during the Parade of Athletes were tireless and loud, and the speeches were heartfelt. Many people from the community who had done a lot of work planning the Games spoke, as well as Thomas Adimari, the Hudson Valley athlete who competed in Tennis at the World Games. After the speeches and the Athletes’ Oath, it was time for the torch to be run in.

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IMG_8710At every State Games, law enforcement officers¬†run alongside an athlete carrying the Flame of Hope. Together, they light the cauldron together. This is always my favorite part, and this time definitely didn’t disappoint.

The next day, I was able to go to two different venues, thanks to one of my friends who is a very good Special Olympics volunteer photographer. First, we went to Holiday Mountain, where the Cross-Country Skiing, Alpine Skiing, and Snowshoe took place.

IMG_8755Because there wasn’t enough snow, the Cross-Country Skiing competition was held on a field that was packed with snow. Volunteers had marked lanes for each skier to go down. It was really fun to watch! I hadn’t seen anything like it before, and the competition was very fast-paced with a lot of volunteers cheering the athletes. Snowshoe was held on the same course, but it was later in the day.

While at Holiday Mountain, I also watched Alpine Skiing. The athletes skied down the hill and had to go around gates. It looked like the slalom event in the Olympics.

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After skiing, we traveled to the Figure Skating, which I was very happy to see. Many of the skaters who I saw at last year’s State Games were there, so it was cool to recognize them and to know some of their names. While watching the skaters, I got chills because their routines were all so beautiful, and I could tell that they put their hearts and souls into everything they did on the ice. All of the skaters had fun routines. One of my favorite routines was a skater who dressed like Charlie Brown and skated to Linus and Lucy’s theme. There was also someone who performed to “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift and another skater who skated to a song from¬†Grease and dressed like a Pink Lady.

Then, around 8 pm, Closing Ceremony or the Victory Dance was held. I missed this last year, so this was a new experience for me. Basically, all of the athletes and a lot of the staff and coaches let loose and dance together. The athletes wear their medals and celebrate their accomplishments. Although we were all very tired by that time, we had fun. And then, the Winter Games were over for another year, and everyone went home happier than they had been. Athletes had more medals to celebrate and add to their collection, volunteers had new experiences to cherish, and I had another memory to add to my Special Olympics journey.

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Some of the athletes at the Closing Ceremony

The Olympics in Bryant Park

On a very cold night on February 5, I joined Nicole and Lena (Special Olympics New York athletes), Adam Rippon (the 2016 U.S. National Champion), Caydee Denning and John Coughlin (the 2012 U.S. National Champions), and the Skyliners (a synchronized ice skating team) at the Bryant Park ice skating rink. The show was absolutely beautiful to watch.

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The Special Olympics New York crew with Adam Rippon

I went to this event last year (see here for that blog post), but this one was even better. Lena, a Special Olympics athlete from Queens, spoke at the beginning to welcome all of the spectators to the show. She was really able to play to the crowd, and by the end of her speech, I could tell that everyone couldn’t wait for the show to start. Bank of America, the sponsor of the event, also spoke, and they presented Special Olympics New York with a $10,000 check!

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Nicole and Lena with the check!

It was really fun to be backstage with all of the athletes, and I was able to talk to them before and after they went on the ice. Nicole, a Special Olympian from Syracuse, went first, and she skated with so much passion. She was a real artist on the ice.

 

After Nicole, the pair went. They performed last year, and they seemed to have only gotten better. I couldn’t believe all the tricks they did! I’m pretty sure I watched their entire show with my mouth wide open. It was incredible.

The Skyliners were next. I had never seen a synchronized ice skating team before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect there to be so many skaters! Their performance was beautiful to watch because they were so fluid in their motions. Everyone flowed together perfectly.

Caydee and John did another small performance to keep the crowd’s excitement up because by that time, it was bitterly cold. Last, Adam Rippon performed. His skating was¬†more like modern dance. He had all of the technical elements there, but he also invoked so much emotion into his performance. It’s not hard to see how he won the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

All in all, it was an amazing experience. I was able to watch beautiful performances in person with my friends next to me. It was a real showcase of the magic of the Olympic Movement.

 

A Look Ahead to the Winter State Games

It’s less than one month to Special Olympics New York’s Winter State Games, and I’m excited! They begin on February 19 with the Opening Ceremonies and then continue on Saturday with Floor Hockey, Figure Skating, Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, and Snowshoe. The Games will be held in the Hudson Valley this year,¬†which is so close to NYC!

Because it’s less than a month to the Games, here’s a little about what to expect.

11402994_10205095091596684_5058970810769487803_nFloor Hockey

Special Olympics’ Floor Hockey is different from what you might expect mainly because the equipment is different from standard hockey equipment. The puck has a hole in the middle, and players use sticks without the flat part at the bottom to move it around. Only goalies have regular hockey sticks. It’s really fun to watch because everyone is so competitive and passionate about the game. Here are some photos from the 2015 Winter State Games and the 2015 Peter Aquilone Memorial Floor Hockey Tournament.

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Floor Hockey Skills

Figure Skating

This is my favorite winter sport because it’s so beautiful to watch. I can’t ice skate at all, so that makes it even more special. I volunteered at the Figure Skating last year, and these skaters are so good! They were doing jumps and¬†skating with only one leg while making everything look so easy as they danced across the ice.¬†I’ll be volunteering at this event again this year!

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Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, and Snowshoe

I have never seen the other events,¬†Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, and Snowshoe, but they always look like fun. Here are some photos of these events from 2015 that I borrowed from Special Olympics New York’s SmugMug¬†page:

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I hope you’re now as excited for the Special Olympics New York Winter State Games as I am!

Here is a blog post where I go into a lot more detail about my experience at the 2015 Winter State Games: https://theolympicsofblogs.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/countdown-to-the-world-games-day-5/

Thanks for reading!

 

Countdown to the World Games: Day 4!

Syracuse, where 2015’s Winter State Games were held, is cold. However, my next experience with Special Olympics New York was even colder. On February 24, I ventured to the Special Olympics Showcase at Bryant Park. It was freezing, but I had the best time!IMG_4327

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Johnny Weir

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John Coughlin and Caydee Denney

In true Olympic spirit, Special Olympic and Olympic skaters teamed up to create an amazing showcase for ice skating fans. I was in awe of their talent and courage. I have a hard enough time moving forward on ice, but both the Special Olympic and Olympic athletes were doing so many crazy routines! It was an especially cool experience for me because many of the Special Olympics athletes had skated at the State Games, and I was able to see how much they had improved since then.

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A Special Olympics athlete who also competed at the State Games

The MCing of the event was also a collaboration between the Special Olympics and the Olympics. Johnny Weir, one of my favorite figure skaters and Olympians, and a very charismatic Special Olympics athlete announced each skater. In addition to the Special Olympics athletes, Ashley Wagner, John Coughlin and Caydee Denney, and Johnny Weir performed.

As someone with a very strong passion for the Olympic Movement, this was a gold medal event for me. It reminded me that even though it was winter and my classes were hard, this was the reason for everything I was doing, and it still is. Someday when I’m done with college, I will work to make events like this happen. Until then, I’ll keep volunteering, interning, blogging, and supporting all of the athletes of Team USA.

From top to bottom: Ashley Wagner, two Special Olympics athletes, and John Coughlin and Caydee Denney
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Check in tomorrow for Day 3 of my countdown to the World Games!