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Special Olympics winter games coming to Syracuse next month

Ellen Abbott

After a pandemic forced hiatus, the Special Olympics of New York is coming to Syracuse in February. Organizers are asking central New Yorkers to help make the yearly games, that feature competitive athletes with intellectual disabilities, memorable.

Lindsay Mitchell of Syracuse will be competing in the snowshoe portion of the games. She said she can’t wait to get back competing after a year off.

"We have been more isolated. I really right now don’t like it,” said Mitchell. “And it doesn’t do good for me, because it gets me more frustrated because I can’t do what I need to do."

Special Olympics New York President Stacey Hengsterman said while the organization couldn’t put on the winter games last year, they tried other strategies to get athletes involved.

"We did a lot virtually, but they love the competition, they love their sport,” said Hengsterman. “They’ve done their part, they’re vaccinated, they just want to play."

Hengsterman said there will be some pandemic accommodations this year.

“We are asking everyone to be vaccinated, our coaches, our athletes and our volunteers for the games,” she said. “We are spaced out a little more, a little less fans in the stands, just the normal pandemic protocols we’re used to. But other than that, the competition is the same, the athletes are psyched, and it’s a great time.”

Athletes will compete in six sports in venues across the Syracuse area: alpine skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, nordic skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Hengstermanis asking for local volunteers to help with the games, as well as spectators to cheer athletes on.

“Scorekeepers, give out awards, meal distribution, parking. “You name it, we have it, we need you. We can bring the athletes, we can bring the coaches, we can bring the goodness and kindness and competition, but we need your help to make these games the best games ever."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.