Trading Tuesday: Austria 2017

unnamedThis pin is the perfect choice for this week’s Trading Tuesday because I just made it today! Currently, I’m volunteering at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. This pin is awesome because I ❤ Special Olympics, and it’s really cool to have my picture on a pin!

I have been having a wonderful time meeting athletes, fans, and volunteers from around the world. People are completely open with friendship, and they are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. So many people have helped me since I’ve come here and gone out of their way to do so. I think everyone recognizes that we are here for the athletes. This is their time, and by making sure the focus is on them, the athletes’ happiness, kindness, and openness is able inspire everyone else. I know I belong within the Special Olympics community because it is one huge, international family, and these Games have confirmed that. Even if people have different abilities, languages, races, or religions, Special Olympics proves that everyone can come together and find similarities.

Saturday night was the Opening Ceremony in Schladming, and I’m so happy I was able to go. It was so beautiful. The entire ceremony focused on the athletes as the stars. Even though it was pouring and bitterly cold the entire time, the stands were completely filled, and it didn’t stop people from cheering for each country as it paraded out into the stadium.

In Messe Graz, the place where Floor Hockey and Floor Ball are located and where I’m volunteering, there is a Coca Cola station where you can take a picture holding a Special Olympics pillow, and then have it made into a pin. Coca Cola is one of the sponsors of the Games, and they had such a cool idea with these pins.

My last day volunteering is on Thursday. So far, I’ve been working in the cafeteria where athletes, coaches, staff, and volunteers eat, but tomorrow and Thursday, I’m volunteering for the Motor Activity Training Program (MATP).

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Go Team USA! Go Special Olympics!

An Interview with Team USA’s Unified Floor Hockey Coach

The Special Olympics World Winter Games start a week from today, so to start getting everyone excited to cheer on Team USA, I interviewed David Durandisse, the coach of the Unified Floor Hockey team from New York City that will compete in the Games.

The Olympics of Blogs: What are you most excited for about Austria?

David: I’m excited to be visiting Europe and being a part of this huge event. I remember our first practice and now that we are this close to departure, I’m excited to see all the work come together and pay off.

The Olympics of Blogs: How were you chosen to coach the team?

David: I was offered the opportunity to join the team and I accepted.

The Olympics of Blogs: How long has your team been training for the World Games?

David: We have been practicing since September, so about 6 months.

The Olympics of Blogs: How has your team been practicing to prepare for the World Games?

David: We have been conditioning to get their stamina up; live scrimmages to get a feel for the game against opponents. We have done a bunch of drills and live game scenarios to map out what we want to do in games.

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The Olympics of Blogs: Will you and your team walk in the Opening Ceremony for Team USA?

David: We will be walking in Opening Ceremonies.

The Olympics of Blogs: Do you think they’ll win gold?

David: I believe we have the players to win gold. We have a combination of size and speed that should work to our advantage to create scoring opportunities. I believe if we can put that together we will surely win gold.

The Olympics of Blogs: After coaching a Unified team, what do you think about Unified sports?

David: Unified sports is a great concept. I have seen two sides come together as one. Individuals who may have not had a chance to come together, now have that opportunity through unified sports. They have created friendships that will last a lifetime.

The Olympics of Blogs: What has been your favorite moment as a coach for Unified Floor Hockey?

David: Hanging out with the team and bonding with the coaches. We all started this journey months ago, and along the way we have shared many laughs on and off the court.

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You can watch Team USA’s Unified Floor Hockey team walk in the Opening Ceremony on ABC on March 18 from 2-5 pm ET!

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!