ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Hundreds of athletes from across the state are in Rochester, competing in the 2020 Special Olympics New York Winter Games.
The state’s best competed in six winter sports, athletes like Trent Hampton, whose team won a gold medal in floor hockey on Saturday.
“With 5 seconds left I was gonna hold it but instead a took a nice top-shelve shot and it went right in and we won 11-9,” said Trent Hampton, part of the ‘long island Babylon bobcats’.
Athletes competed in six winter sports from alpine and cross country skiing, to figure skating, floor hockey, snowboarding, and snowshoes.
Damien Gallo started competing 15 years ago.
“Join the Special Olympics, it’s the best thing you can do. It’s like another family. You met a lot of friends, you met a lot of people and the competition, everything is just great,” said Damien Gallo, part of the ‘long island lions’.
The Special Olympics started in the 1960s with the goal of “promoting respect, inclusion, and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities”.
“Just being around the athletes, if you’re in a bad mood, they make you feel better. They’re kind, they’re dedicated, they’re hard-working. They’re competitive, this is athletic sports. This is not charity, they work very hard but they’ re also good to each other and they’re very good to me,” said Stacey Hengsterman, president and CEO of Special Olympics New York.
For the athletes, it’s about competing at the highest level and having fun.
It’s a very friendly competition, no one is a loser, everyone is winners, everyone is champions here today. Win or loss, we’re all winners,” said Gallo.
“We are all just like anyone else that’s normal. We have disabilities but we can’t focus on that, we have to focus on the abilities,” said Hampton.
Special Olympics New York is one of the largest state chapters in the country, the organization serves more than 68,000 athletes across the state.