The Special Olympics Spring Games Come Back To LI!

The American Muscle Powerlifting Team of Long Island strikes a pose before the competition. (Photos courtesy of Lauren Feldman)

A warm and sunny morning greeted the over 500 athletes gathered at Howitt Middle School for the Spring Special Olympics. The event – which has been hosted in Farmingdale for the past two years – celebrates the strength, speed, endurance, and dedication of special needs athletes from all over Long Island.

Paul Defendini, superintendent of the Farmingdale School District, greeted the athletes and audience at opening ceremonies, alongside ASL interpreter Nora Reade. “Farmingdale is a town that prides itself on supporting each other and those around us without compromise and without reservation. I can think of no better place on earth to host Special Olympics than here in the Farmingdale school district. Thank you to Special Olympics New York for giving us this opportunity to host the 51st Special Olympic spring games!” The athletes had been training for this day for weeks, months and even years. They were ready to show themselves, their families, and the thousands of spectators what it means to be an athlete on such a very special day.

Short-distance runners celebrate their wins on the podium.

“Do you know the origin of the Special Olympics athlete oath?” Defendini asked. “Eunice Kennedy Shriver jotted down the Special Olympics athlete oath on the morning of July 20, 1968 – just ahead of the opening of the very first Special Olympics international games. The words emphasize the importance of effort — and trying for one’s personal best. 50 years later, these words resonate with Special Olympics athletes:

‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt!’

One of the runners in the long-distance track event.

As part of the ceremony, Defendini officially passed the torch to Plainedge Schools superintendent, Edward Salina, whose district will host the Spring Games in 2024.
The Special Olympics events took place throughout the day, beginning with the track events. Athletes competed in various age groups and distance combinations. Events also included baseball, softball, weightlifting, baton toss, frisbee toss, and various swim races. Following each event, they were taken directly to the podiums to be awarded medals and cheered on by friends and family.

This event is meaningful not only to Long Islanders but also to the athletes who train for so long in preparation. “I want to thank everyone for coming to see us today,” said a competitor from the American Muscle Powerlifting Team of Long Island. “I’ve been all over the country, and this event is so much fun. My guys work so hard. I also want to thank my coach for training with us every day – he’s an amazing guy, and I couldn’t be here without him.” His teammates agreed, another of them noting how kind everyone has been to them at the event. “People come up to us and tell us ‘good job’ – it’s very nice because I practice so much. Everyone who came today is so nice and friendly – we’re gonna show them what we can do!”

The Special Olympics continues to showcase the amazing athletes New York has to offer, and they are all looking forward to competing in Plainedge next year.

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