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!

The Austria 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games

2017WorldGamesAustrialogoStarting with the Opening Ceremony on March 18, the Special Olympics World Winter Games will be held in Graz, Austria! The Flame of Hope has already been lit and has started traveling on its way to Austria. The sports of these Games will be Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Floor Hockey, Floorball, Snowshoeing, Alpine Skiing, Nordic Skiing, Snowboarding, and Stick Shooting. Special Olympics New York City’s Unified Floor Hockey team and two of Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s speed skaters will be competing!

ESPN will be airing live coverage of the Games. Here is the schedule. I’ll be volunteering at the Games and will be at the Opening Ceremony, so make sure to look for me!

Saturday, March 18, 2-5 pm EST, ABC – Live: Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 Opening Ceremony

Sunday, March 19, 2-3 pm EST, ABC – Coverage of the Games

Monday, March 20, 6-6:30 pm EST, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Tuesday, March 21, 6-7 pm EST, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Wednesday, March 22, 6-7 pm ESt, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Thursday, March 23, 6-7 pm EST, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Friday, March 24, 6-7 pm EST, ESPN2 – Coverage of the Games

Sunday, March 26, 2-3 pm EST, ABC – Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 – Best of the Games

Only 2 Left in the Race for the 2024 Olympics

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-1-54-30-pmOn February 22, the Budapest 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Committee withdrew its bid to host the 2024 Games due to increased opposition. The bid was withdrawn after all three potential host cities had already completed and submitted their three candidature files. Now, only LA and Paris are competing to hold the Games.

The opposition to the Budapest bid centered around Momentum Mozgalom’s “NOlimpia” campaign to push the government to hold a referendum about the Games. In total, 266,151 signatures were gathered, and as a result, the government decided to pull the bid. A survey conducted by Median claimed that 50 percent of Hungarians opposed the bid, and only 33 percent supported it.

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In 2017, Hungary will host the FINA World Championships, the Judo World Championships, the Finn Gold Cup, and the European Youth Olympic Festival. Even though it withdrew its bid, it is still progressing toward becoming a global country known for sport, and Balázs Fürjes, Budapest 2024’s chairman, believes that Budapest will win the Olympics eventually: “Our 120-year-old dream of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games remains alive… We continue to believe in the model and we hope to have the chance one day to prove the case.”

Since 2015, many cities have dropped out of the race to win the 2o24 Games. Last October, Rome 2024’s bid was suspended after of a change in Rome’s leadership, and in November 2015, Hamburg withdrew its bid after a referendum showed that 51.6 percent of Hamburg’s residents opposed it. In July 2015, Boston ended its bid for the 2024 Games, and LA became the United States’ candidate city.

The International Olympic Committee will vote for the host of the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics on September 13!

For more information about Budapest’s withdrawal of its bid, go to: http://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1047423/budapest-2024-chairman-confirms-bid-is-closing

http://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1047368/budapest-2024-olympic-and-paralympic-bid-axed

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

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Happy New Year, everyone! It’s hard to believe that 2016 is already over. 2016 was a big year for me, the Olympic Movement, and this blog.

Over the year, I celebrated one year of volunteering at Special Olympics; attended the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN; interviewed Jesse Owens’ daughter, Marlene Rankins Owen, and Matt Stutzman, a Paralympic archer; interned at Special Olympics NYC, Special Olympics Southern California, and LA 2024; volunteered at the Rio 2016 Olympics; presented my senior Honors thesis on introducing Special Olympics’ Unified Sports into the Olympics; and graduated from Pace University! I’m so thankful to have had such a great year, and I’m excited to see where 2017 will take me!

Here are some things I’m excited for in 2017:

  • Starting in January, I’m going to be an Assistant Swim Coach for Special Olympics Pennsylvania!
  • The three grand marshals of the Rose Bowl Parade (which is happening tomorrow) will be Greg Louganis, Janet Evans, and Allyson Felix.
  • I’m presenting my thesis at a conference in Pittsburgh in April!
  • In May, I’ll walk at my graduation!
  • My sister and my best friend are getting married this summer!
  • In September, we’ll finally learn which city will host the 2024 Olympics!
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These three Olympians will be welcoming 2017 at the Rose Bowl Parade tomorrow!

Here’s to a great 2017!

 

Olympics Update

Hi everyone!

My time in Rio is starting to wind down, which is very bittersweet. Yesterday, I finished my last volunteer shift, and today I’m attending my last competition. So many of the friends I made are leaving, but even though we’re sad, we’re also happy because we had the chance to do something most people in the world don’t get to do. Volunteering at the Olympics has taught me so much about the world. I have interacted with people from so many from countries that I might never visit, but we still managed to communicate with each other sometimes even if we didn’t speak the same language. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, once said, “the most important thing about the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part.” Although he was talking more about athletes having good sportsmanship, his quote also applies to my experience. I didn’t compete at the Olympics, but I did take part, and doing that has been life-changing.

In the past week, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to watch Usain Bolt run the prelims, semi-finals, and finals of the 100 meter sprint; Simone Biles and Aly Raisman perform at the Gymnastics Gala; Russia win the Synchronized Swimming duet; and various teams play Water Polo. I also visited the Sugarloaf Mountain with two American volunteers who I met online and was really excited to meet in person, I went to the Escadaria Selarón (the famous steps in Rio de Janeiro), and I rode one of the bikes used in the Opening Ceremony! This has just been so incredible because every day is an amazing adventure, and most of the time, I don’t know what will happen when I wake up in the morning. Rio de Janeiro is one of the most laid back and relaxed places I have ever been to, and I really like its stress-free environment. I think it’s very healthy, and it allows for people (like me!) to have awesome adventures.

I go to diving today, and tomorrow, I’m going to attend The Today Show. To my friends on the East Coast, it will be aired live at 7 am! Try to find me. 🙂 Tomorrow is also the Closing Ceremony!

Here’s a video that I made last Thursday for my second recap on my Rio 2016 adventures. Check out my next video for what I did starting yesterday until the end of my trip.

An Interview with Marlene Owens Rankin, the Daughter of Jesse Owens

RACE is a movie about Jesse Owens, one of the most inspiring Olympians of all time. He competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin right before Hitler and the Nazis came into full power. Owens won four gold medals, and his wins showed the Nazis that people of all races can become champions. Released on DVD today, RACE stars Stephan James as Jesse Owens and co-stars Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, William Hurt, and Carice van Houten.

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Jesse Owens had three daughters, Gloria, Marlene, and Beverly. Together, they run the Jesse Owens Foundation, which “perpetuate[s] the spirit and beliefs of Jesse Owens through its support of The Ruth and Jesse Owens Scholars Program at The Ohio State University as well as through serving as a resource for information on the life and legend of Jesse Owens” (see http://jesse-owens.org/ for more information). Although Owens passed away in 1980, his foundation carries on his memory.

The Olympics of Blogs was able to interview one of Jesse Owens’ daughters, Marlene Owens Rankin, about the movie, the foundation, and her father. Enjoy!

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Left to Right: Beverly Owens Prather, Marlene Owens Rankin, and Gloria Owens Hemphill. Photo from the Chicago Tribune (http://tinyurl.com/j4yqev4)

The Olympics of Blogs: What was it like to grow up with your dad?

Marlene Owens Rankin: Growing up with my father was much like any other family. He was a disciplinarian and he and my mother had high expectations and standards for me and my sisters. It was not until we reached our teenage years that we realized that he was a celebrity and the level of his celebrity. He was just Daddy to us.

The Olympics of Blogs: Were you ever able to watch your dad run? Could you describe the experience?

Marlene Owens Rankin: I was not born when my father was in his prime as an athlete. Watching films of his athletic accomplishments is awe inspiring. Such talent – such grace.

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Competing at the 1936 Olympics.                                                                                                                  Photo Credit: USATF Hall of Fame (http://www.usatf.org/halloffame/TF/showBio.asp?HOFIDs=126)

The Olympics of Blogs: Have you ever been to Berlin? Were you able to see where your father competed?

Marlene Owens Rankin: My sisters and I have been to Berlin a number of times and each time has been a heartwarming and enjoyable experience. I remember the first time that I saw the Olympic stadium and his name etched in the wall, it gave me chills. It is an amazing place. Today, there is a street that leads to the stadium named for him – Jesse Owens Allee. In the stadium there is a Jesse Owens Lounge which is most impressive with large photos of him surrounding the two story room. Our last visit was to be on set for the filming of one of the scenes for the movie RACE.

The Olympics of Blogs: What is your role in the Jesse Owens Foundation?

Marlene Owens Rankin: I am the Managing Director of the Jesse Owens Foundation. I have managed the Foundation since 1991 and duties included administering the Scholarship and other programs, fund raising, managing up to 100 volunteers, working with the Board of Directors on policy issues, mentoring students and supervising staff. Today, we have downsized and endowed our program (scholarships) to The Ohio State University. The Foundation now provides occasional small grants and provides information and referral on the life and legacy of Jesse Owens.

The Olympics of Blogs: How does the work of the Jesse Owens Foundation showcase the spirit of Jesse Owens?

Marlene Owens Rankin: By providing information on Jesse Owens, we keep history from being rewritten. Our participation in the accuracy of the script for the movie RACE is an example of how we manage that. Our work with The Ohio State University in providing underprivileged young people with an opportunity for an education is another and our efforts on behalf of the youth of this country is yet another.

The Olympics of Blogs: What was your role in the creation of RACE

Marlene Owens Rankin: The creation of RACE was the brainchild of Luc Dayan, a French businessman and sports enthusiast. We participated in it by providing guidance with the script in terms of context and time.

The Olympics of Blogs: Do you think your dad would like the movie?

Marlene Owens Rankin: I think that my father would be very proud of the movie.

The Olympics of Blogs: What was your favorite part of RACE?

Marlene Owens Rankin: I loved it all but the part that tugged at my heart the most was when my parents were not allowed to enter the Waldorf at the front door but had to use the freight elevator. It breaks your heart that such a kind, caring and giving individual such as he was could be treated so shabbily.

The Olympics of Blogs: If your dad were alive right now, what do you think he would say about track and field as it is today?

Marlene Owens Rankin: I’m not sure what he would say about it. I know that he loved the sport and was proud of his accomplishments. He encouraged others to strive for excellence and be the best that they could be. He was modest and appreciated his good fortune.

Here is RACE‘s trailer:

I would like to thank Marlene for allowing me to interview her and for giving me this amazing opportunity to learn more about such an inspirational figure in the Olympics.

Make sure to get out and buy a copy of RACE today!

The Armless Archer

Matt Stutzman won a silver medal at the London 2012 Paralympics, broke the Guinness World Record for longest archery shot (230 yards or approximately two football fields), and  then broke his own world record at 310 yards. He is ranked the eleventh best archer in the world and is called the Armless Archer because he has accomplished everything without arms.

I was lucky enough to interview him about the upcoming Rio Paralympics, London 2012, and his family!

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The Olympics of Blogs: What are you most excited for in Rio?

Matt: I am most excited about the opportunity of competing in my second games and for another shot at a Gold Medal.

The Olympics of Blogs: Why did you choose archery as your sport?

Matt: I chose archery because it is the only sport that doesn’t stereotype against any athlete. Anyone can pick up a bow and be the best in the world at it with enough practice.

The Olympics of Blogs: What has been your favorite moment at a competition?

Matt: My favorite moment in a competition was back in 2014 when I competed at indoor nationals, which is the largest competition in the US. I became the first person with a physical disability to shoot a perfect score, I did not miss any points. I was one of only eight athletes to do so.

The Olympics of Blogs: What has been your proudest moment as an athlete?

Matt: My proudest moment as an athlete was representing Team USA in the 2012 London Paralympic Games and being part of something bigger than myself.

matt-stutzman-article.jpgThe Olympics of Blogs: Have you ever thought about competing in the Olympics and the Paralympics as some athletes have done? Would you do it? 

Matt: I would compete in the Olympic Games, but as of right now they don’t allow the use of compound bows, which is what I shoot. Until the they allow compound in the Olympic Games, I will compete in the Paralympic Games.

The Olympics of Blogs: What were you thinking as you stood on the podium after you won silver at the 2012 Paralympics?

Matt: I thought about where I had left my gloves…. lol. But in all seriousness, I just thought about how proud I was to represent the United States of America.

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The Olympics of Blogs: What inspires you?

Matt: My family inspires me because they look up to me and I want to show my boys that with hard work, you can overcome anything.

The Olympics of Blogs: Is it difficult to balance training for the Paralympics and having a family?

Matt: Yes, it is difficult. I have to budget my time wisely and have a good dose of family mixed in with training.

87 More Days to the Olympics!

It’s so close now, and I’m even more excited because I received my invitation to volunteer over the weekend.

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I will be working Press Operations, which means I’ll be at the center of everything! My job description is to provide official operational information to clients, prepare documents and signs, distribute press kits, certificates and medals, and provide translation and support services for lost and found operations. I can’t wait to volunteer!

Yesterday, I also bought a ticket to the Closing Ceremony. The Opening Ceremony tickets went so fast at the very beginning of the process, so I was extremely surprised to see Closing Ceremony tickets still available. Going to the Closing Ceremony will be awesome for so many reasons, but especially because I’ll get to see Rio 2016 pass on the Games to Tokyo for 2020!

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Here is a photo from when London 2012 passed the Games to Rio 2016 during the Closing Ceremony.

My GoFundMe is still going strong! I have reached the 25% mark, which is absolutely amazing! Thank you so much to everyone who has donated and who is following along on my journey. I definitely couldn’t do it without you.

Here is the link (https://www.gofundme.com/carolynroadtorio) to my page if you are interested in how I’m doing. 😀

I’m almost done with school, so I will be doing a lot of catch up on events with this blog soon. Keep an eye out for them!

The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace

Today is the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, and it’s also the 120th anniversary of the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece, in 1896!

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The United Nations created this holiday to celebrate the power of sport in sustainable process and change. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, said, “Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the wall, all the barriers. It is a worldwide industry whose practices can have widespread impact. Most of all, it is a powerful tool for progress and for development.”

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Started in 2014, the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is the annual celebration of what the International Olympic Committee, National and International Sports Federation, sports clubs, governmental and non-governmental organizations, neighborhood associations and everything else is doing to use sport to help create social change.

To celebrate the day, artist Maud Bernos created the “Carton Blanc” or “White Card” project. Referees give players red cards if they are too violent (it’s the most serious offense a player can commit), so a white card symbolizes peace. It’s a worldwide project, so everyone is encouraged to participate. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Take a photo of yourself holding a white card.
  2. Post the photo on social media with the status, “Post your #WhiteCard to play for peace on April 6! @peaceandsport #IDSDP #sport4abetterworld”

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Have fun celebrating sport today!

The Olympic Museum

Here is a really amazing blog post written by my friend, Lili. She’s been studying abroad in London since January, and she’s been going on such amazing adventures! Recently, she journeyed to Lausanne, Switzerland, home of the Olympic Museum, and from what she wrote, it sounds like such an awesome museum! If you are interested in reading more about her travels or about any books she’s reading, check out her beautiful blog at http://lilisreflections.blogspot.com.

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Thank you so much for having me on the blog today, Carolyn!

I went to Switzerland in the beginning of March to visit a friend, and she just so happens to live in Lausanne… the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee! I took advantage of this awesome opportunity by spending a day in the Olympic Museum.

When you first walk in, you are greeted by a test track with the 5 rules of the Olympics listed: Fair Play, Excellence, Respect, Friendship, and Peace. This sets the tone of your entire visit because it symbolizes what the museum is all about. If you come from the opposite direction, you’ll climb a staircase full of dates and locations, which end up being the hosts of all recorded Games in years’ past. Pretty cool.

The museum starts you off by teaching you the history of the Games, bringing you through exhibits of what the original Games were like all the way through an exhibit on the life of the father of the modern Games. This entire first floor is very educational. I think the coolest fact that I picked up is that in the original Games in Athens, there were twelve Zeus statues on the ground to inspire athletes. Each of these statues was bought and paid for by a past Olympian that was caught cheating and exiled from the games. Their names were often etched into it, so they forever lived in shame.

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This exhibit also took you through the history of the Olympic flag. Originally it was not the five ring symbol we know and love today. And, on top of that, when it eventually became the five rings we know today, the regulations of the time prohibited the rings from properly interlocking. So the symbol we know today is still relatively young in the grand scheme of things. It was really cool to see one of the first and oldest surviving Olympic flags with today’s modern symbol.
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What stood out to me, though, was the torch exhibit. They have an actual torch for every single Games displayed and watching them transform and become more intricately detailed with each passing year was astounding. Plus, they have a Rio torch on display that I excitedly touched just to be able to say I did. Let me tell you, she is a beaut.

The next floor has some crazy history exhibits with so many interactive opportunities that you can spend hours here. Everywhere you look you could find famous outfits and equipment belonging to athletes that revolutionized their respective sport. You can then scroll through iPads at each station, select an athlete, and read in-depth bios and watch record-breaking videos of Olympians who I wasn’t alive to view myself on television.

The best part of this level, however, is the video screen. They have every single Olympic Games on it, and ten different ones can be viewed at once. You pick an Olympics, and you can view a 5 to 10 minute video about that year’s importance…the athletes that revolutionized sports, new sports introduced, any historical controversies—I found the video of the Games hosted under Hitler to be especially fascinating for this reason. I must have spent a solid hour there, scrolling through every year I have been able to watch on television, a few historically important ones, and the Games hosted in any city I’ll be visiting in the future out of sheer curiosity.

The third and final level of the museum is all about the athletes. You walk downstairs and there’s a ton of mannequins dressed in the old workout clothing of each country. There are simulators for you to test balance, reflexes, speed, etc. at the rate of an Olympic athlete, and they make you feel like you are so out of shape you should never get off the couch. There are interactive booths that let you sit down and view special interviews set up with famous athletes that simulate an environment where it feels like they’re talking directly to you. There’s an entire section on doping where I learned I’d be a really bad judge of character because I took a test just to be told I have no idea how to properly spot people doping. It’s all so interesting really.

But the best part is at the very end. They have the medal room. An entire room featuring a silver, bronze, and gold from every Olympics ever. It’s so fascinating to see the basicness of Athens 1896 (the gold was unfortunately missing to be cleaned) to the intricacy of Sochi 2014.

Right before you exit, you stumble into an actual Olympic podium from Sydney’s 2000 Olympics. Naturally, I needed a picture, and you know, I obviously went for the gold. Do you blame me?

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This museum is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I love museums and often wander off on my own when exploring them because my friends aren’t as into them as I am, but this is a museum that even the most reluctant museum goer will be interested in. Heavy on interactive experiences, you decide how long you spend in there by indicating what you are interested in and exploring with that in mind. I would go back if I ever find myself in Lausanne, Switzerland again. I will say this: Lausanne is a one-day kind of trip. While it holds such importance to the Olympics it’s a very small city with not a lot to do, so the Olympics Museum is more like a stop-over on a larger journey to, say, Interlaken or Bern, but it is a stop-over that is so, so worth it.