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Special Olympic Athletes Battled for Gold at Fall Games

by Angela Jacobs

Over 800 Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ) athletes, aged 8 years and up, competed for gold medals in cycling, flag football, golf, and soccer at Saturday’s Fall Games, held at Mercer County Park in West Windsor and Skillman Park in Skillman. Equestrian athletes competed on October 15th at the Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown. In addition to hosting culminating events for traditional special olympics athletes, SONJ held the Shriver Cup Unified Soccer Tournament on Sunday. At this competition, high school and college-level unified soccer teams battled each other for medals. “Unified” teams are composed of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities. Athletes across New Jersey competed heavily in order to qualify for the culminating events.

It takes a village

Under a perfectly clear blue sky, Ewing resident Carol Martin watched her teenaged son, Chris, play for Hamilton Y.M.C.A.’s S.K.O.R. (Special Kids Organized Recreation) soccer team against the Optics All Stars. Chris’s difficulty learning how to lose, made more profound due to autism, steered her away from traditional sports and into Special Olympics when he was in the first grade.

“Traditional sports are just too competitive. Through Special Olympics, Chris has learned that he doesn’t win all the time. Now, when he plays, he shows kindness to all of the players, especially when they are having difficulties of their own. It takes a village to raise a child and this is our village,” said Martin.

Members of the Mercer Mustangs flag football team, together since 2010, were on a high from their 18:14 win that morning. When asked if they would win their final game, “Of course!” echoed the players. That kind of ego served the team well but it was questionable if the team could hold itself together. Reportedly, the quarterback was overheard saying, “I’m the quarterback so who cares about defense!” When one of the defensive players pushed for clarification, the quarterback said, “We have defensive players like you who can’t get flags off!” Though the player ceded to that point, and all players seemed in high spirits as they laughed, it remains to be seen if the team can win the most important game of their season to be held at noon.

Update: The Mercer Mustangs beat BCI Thunder to win 26:20 giving the team a gold medal championship. Nice job guys!

Members of The College of New Jersey Lions unified soccer team
Members of the Mercer Mustangs flag football team after winning 18:14 against the Bancroft Storm
Golfer Michael Dirkes
Alex Vucetic has been playing golf since he was 4 years old. On the left is Brian, his caddy.
Golfer James DiTomaso (right) with his father Lenny.
Titusville resident Delaney O’Connell, competing at the SONJ Equestrian Show (Courtesy SONJPhotos)

About Special Olympics New Jersey

SONJ provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in 24 Olympic-type sports for more than 25,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities, free of charge. Visit www.sonj.org for more information.

News idea for Lawrence Township and Lawrenceville? Email Angela Jacobs ([email protected]).

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