Special Olympics New York Announces 2023 Athlete of the Year Nominees

Winner to be Honored June 9 at State Summer Games Opening Ceremonies

Albany, NY – Special Olympics New York is pleased to announce nine finalists for the 2023 Athlete of the Year Award. The winner of this prestigious honor will be celebrated at the 2023 State Summer Games in Ithaca, NY during Opening Ceremonies Friday, June 9, at Ithaca College.

“These nine nominees are the epitome of what it means to be a Special Olympics athlete,” said Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “They compete, they lead, they fundraise, and they advocate, all in the spirit of our movement. We congratulate them all on this tremendous accomplishment, and we look forward to announcing the winner.”

To qualify for this award, nominees must fulfill extensive criteria, including at least five years of training and competition experience with Special Olympics NY. They must also participate in at least three sports and at least two competitions throughout the year.

The nominees are as follows:

Tom Mooney, Capital District Region: Hailing from Troy and competing in numerous sports, Tom Mooney has been a Special Olympics NY athlete for 26 years. During that time, he’s competed at the local, state, and national level, most recently earning several medals at the 2022 USA Games. Off the field, Tom also works as an Athlete Leadership Council member, a social media intern for our headquarters office, and a representative on the National Law Enforcement Torch Run Committee.

Jordan Root, Genesee Region: Not only is Jordan Root a star bowler, golfer, and soccer player—he’s also a dedicated athlete leader and fundraiser. He’s been a longtime member of the Genesee Region Athlete Leadership Council, and on this year’s Jersey Mike’s Day of Giving, Jordan personally made deliveries to local businesses. He’s been a Special Olympics New York athlete for seven years.

James Jewett, Central Region: As a four-sport athlete and member of his local Athlete Leadership Council, James “JJ” Jewett inspires not only with his athletic performance, but with his public speaking ability. His story of perseverance at our Winter Games Press Conference was so moving that he was invited to deliver it again at Opening Ceremonies.

Richard Fishwick, Hudson Valley Region: Over his 12 years with Special Olympics NY, Richard Fishwick has competed in basketball, softball, bowling, and track & field, finding success in each sport. He’s also an influential leader in his community, both with his fellow teammates and with his dedicated membership on the Statewide Athlete Leadership Council. Richard’s nomination form describes him perfectly: “He is an individual who leads by example.”

Matthew Schuster, Long Island Region: Matthew has been a Special Olympics New York athlete since he was eight years old. Now, at 40, he’s expanded his role even further. From competing in swimming, floor hockey, softball, golf, and basketball to volunteering at his regional office and our State Games, Matthew is a pillar of our community.

Erik Viscardo, North Country Region: Erik competes in a remarkable array of Special Olympics events, including bowling, snow shoeing, downhill skiing, bocce, fitness, and our Move Challenge. In addition, he’s a dedicated member of the Statewide Athlete Leadership Council, traveling more than four hours to attend meetings. 

Jonathan Beiner, New York City Region: Jonathan is a leader in our organization in so many ways. As an athlete, he competes in five sports. As a fundraiser, he’s consistently one of the top earners for the Rockaway Polar Plunge. As an advocate, he recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak at Capitol Hill Day.

Anne Norby, Southern Tier Region: Though Anne has only competed with us for five years, she has already made an incredible impact. In addition to being an alpine skier, cyclist, and swimmer, she’s one of the founding members of the Southern Tier’s Athlete Leadership Council. Anne represented New York at the 2022 USA Games in Orlando, Florida, distinguishing herself in the swimming competition.

Ronald Ward, Western Region: As stated in his nomination form, Ronald “embodies the Special Olympics Athlete Oath” of being brave in the attempt. With more than 25 years of experience in softball, bowling, and bocce, he always conducts himself with class and integrity. Off the field, you can always find him fundraising for his fellow athletes, as well as advocating on his regional leadership council.