New York Competitors Selected for 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany
19 Local Athletes, Unified Partners & Coaches Earn Opportunity of a Lifetime with Special Olympics USA
Albany, NY – Special Olympics New York today announced that 19 of its athletes, unified partners and coaches have been named to Special Olympics USA, the national team that will compete at World Games in Berlin, Germany, June 17-25, 2023. Special Olympics World Games are held every two years, alternating between summer and winter sports.
The Games are a flagship of the global Special Olympics movement, which is known for its ability to transcend the boundaries of geography, nationality, culture, religion, politics and more by bringing communities together in a celebration of inclusion, equality and acceptance.
“Special Olympics World Games are the opportunity of a lifetime for athletes with intellectual differences as well as the unified partners and coaches who compete at their side,” said Special Olympics New York President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman. “We are proud to see so many of our talented New York athletes selected to represent Special Olympics USA on the world stage. I know all of New York will be cheering them on in June when they go for the gold.”
Special Olympics USA is comprised of 201 athletes, coaches and staff from Special Olympics chapters across the country. The national team will compete in 14 of the 26 sports offered, and it will include 8 Unified Sports® teams, where people with and without intellectual disabilities compete together as teammates.
Competing from New York will be the following:
City Hawks Team of Manhattan (Unified Soccer): The City Hawks team includes students and alumni from P721M and Harvest Collegiate High Schools in Manhattan. The team has participated in Special Olympics for more than a decade, with increasing success at the local, state, national and world level, most recently going undefeated and winning the gold medal for New York at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, FL. Through the years, the City Hawks have given their school an identity and a sports mascot for the first time. The City Hawks have established an unprecedented culture of inclusion for students with disabilities in New York City.
Sean O’Rourke, 45, of Northport (Cycling): Sean has been a Special Olympics New York athlete since age 13. He completed the IRONMAN Lake Placid in 14 hours. He has also finished two IRONMAN 70.3 events, the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon. In 2003, Sean competed in the Special Olympics World Games in Ireland. He has also competed in the 2014 and 2022 Special Olympics USA Games. His most memorable competition was at his first State Fall Games, when he got a flat tire with one mile left in his cycling race. Driven by a desire to finish the race, he picked up the bike, put it over his shoulder and ran the last mile carrying it. Sean trains with the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program, one of the first inclusive running clubs in the United States for all athletes. Through his training, Sean met his wife, Pavla, who has supported Sean as his coach. Spending most of his time training or with his family, Sean is already training his son, Sean, for a future career in athletics. For the past 11 years, he has worked as a full-time prep cook at Briston Assisted Living.
Amanda Vito, 42, of Penfield (Unified Golf): Amanda has competed with Special Olympics New York for the past 20 years in athletics, basketball, bowling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, soccer, softball and swimming. Overcoming her fear of public speaking, Amanda advocates for Special Olympics as a Global Messenger. She has competed in athletics at two Special Olympics USA Games and in one Special Olympics USA Games in golf. This will be her first World Games. Some of Amanda’s most notable accomplishments include throwing the first pitch at a minor league baseball game, making the honor roll as a student and presenting an award to Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver, honoring Eunice Kennedy Shriver. She is employed as a daycare assistant at a local YMCA.
Martha Pachuta, 62, of Perry (Unified Golf). Amanda’s Unified Golf Partner, Martha has been involved with Special Olympics for 40 years in many capacities, including coach, clinician, committee member and Unified partner. Although she has experience in many of the sports offered through Special Olympics New York, she is focused on Alpine skiing, golf and swimming. In 2011, she competed as a Unified partner in golf at the Special Olympics World Games and has attended two Special Olympics USA Games as a coach. Martha is a retired special education teacher and works seasonally, managing a golf course pro shop in the Genesee Region. In 2022, she was named as the first-ever recipient of the Annette Lynch Lifetime Achievement Award for Coaching by Special Olympics North America.
Stacey Weimer, 35, of Earlville (Cycling): Stacey has competed with Special Olympics New York for more than 10 years in bocce, bowling, cycling, snowshoeing, swimming and volleyball. As a member of Special Olympics New York’s Athlete Leadership Council, Stacey is a courageous advocate in her community. Active in many sports, Stacey is currently training for a black belt in karate and enjoys horseback riding. Stacey volunteers at ARISE, a living center providing opportunities for individuals with disabilities to live freely and independently.
In addition to the competitors above, Special Olympics New York Coach Christine Johnson, 57, of Staten Island was named to Special Olympics USA as an Assistant Coach in Golf. Christine has extensive coaching experience through various schools and nonprofit agencies. She has competed as a Unified partner in golf and bocce. A lifelong athlete, Christine leveraged her experience as a coach for Special Olympics USA in two Special Olympics World Games. Christine is a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, a volunteer for Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the New York City Marathon. She teaches Adaptive PE through the New York City Department of Education. She considers Special Olympics USA the perfect combination of family, sportsmanship, camaraderie and competition.
About Special Olympics World Games Berlin
Special Olympics World Games Berlin will be the world’s largest multi-sport event in Berlin in decades. It will feature more than 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from more than 190 countries competing in 26 sports: athletics, badminton, basketball, basketball 3×3, beach volleyball, bocce, bowling, cycling, equestrian, field hockey, football, futsal, golf, gymnastics – artistic, gymnastics—rhythmic, handball, judo, kayaking, open water swimming, powerlifting, roller skating, sailing, swimming, table tennis, tennis and volleyball. As the official broadcast partner of Special Olympics, ESPN will broadcast the Games across its TV networks in the United States and stream them on WatchESPN and the ESPN App. Learn more about Special Olympics USA at specialolympicsusa.org.
About Special Olympics New York
Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 31,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with about 250 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports, where students with and without disabilities compete as teammates. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. The organization has earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.com, making it one of the most trusted charities in the business nationally. For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.