The Games will kick off with an opening procession on Friday evening at Ithaca College. The eight sporting events take place throughout the day on Saturday with a closing ceremony that evening. IC will host aquatics, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, and tennis; track and field and powerlifting will be at Ithaca High School; bowling at Midway Lanes, in nearby Vestal, NY.
“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,” Ithaca athlete Robbie Gale said at the press conference, echoing the Special Olympics athlete oath. Gale, 35, is looking forward to the bowling event. A long-standing participant in the Games, he first competed in the under-18 league. “I enjoy the fact that it is a judgement-free area. Everyone is so friendly and I love meeting new people,” he said. After a two-year hiatus, Gale is “excited to be back, and doing what I love to do.”
Kinsey Henry, 22, from nearby Groton, NY, has been competing in the Special Olympics for 10 years. She started out in bowling in seventh grade. The Games have taken her around the world—to Austria for the 2017 World Winter Games as a snowshoe athlete, and Dubai in 2018 for the summer event, where she competed in track and field; she medaled at both. She will be running the 200m and 400m and participating in the long jump in Ithaca. Aside from her sporting achievements, Henry has learned a lot through her involvement with the Special Olympics. A member of the State Leadership Council, Henry has been visiting schools to encourage younger athletes to participate.
“I cannot say enough about what the Special Olympics means to me,” she said. “I have so many coaches, family and friends that are supportive. I have many people cheering me on to accomplish my goals. I have become a better speaker, I am more confident and I am able to proudly represent people with autism.”
“State Summer Games is our largest statewide competition of the year,” said Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacy Hengsterman. “Athletes and coaches from throughout New York have been training and they’ll be ready to go for the gold.”
She urged everyone from the local community—families, high school students, sports teams, coaches—to sign up to volunteer. No sports experience is necessary. “We have jobs for everyone. I promise you, you will have the time of your life,” she said. “But another way to volunteer is just to be a fan on the stand,” said Hengsterman. “Everyone likes to be cheered on!”