Athletes compete at annual Special Olympic Games

By Tom Ballard
News Editor

Rio de Janeiro and Ewing, N.J., had something in common this summer: both hosted record-breaking Olympic Games. From Friday, June 10, to Sunday, June 12, the College hosted the annual Special Olympics New Jersey Summer Games.

According to Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ), nearly 2,500 athletes participated in the Games from across the state in events such as aquatics, gymnastics, powerlifting, track & field, softball, tennis and bocce, a lawn bowling game.

Powerlifter Steven Kryspin, a 28-year-old resident of Florham Park, N.J., beat the competition’s records in the bench press, squat and deadlift, lifting 1,335 pounds in total across the powerlifting competitions, according to an NJ.com article from Saturday, June 11.

The College has hosted the SONJ Summer Games for more than 20 years. (Photo courtesy of SONJ's Facebook)
The College has hosted the SONJ Summer Games for more than 20 years. (Photo courtesy of SONJ’s Facebook)

“I just breathe, I focus and I lift,” Kryspin told the news site.

He had some advice for others looking to claim a victory at the Games.

“Remain focus(ed) at all times… just focus,” he said.

Kryspin set the SONJ record in 2013, according to an NJ.com article from June 8, 2013.

Athletes partaking in the annual Games were required to qualify by competing and placing in area and sectional contests. Heather Anderson, president and CEO of SONJ, praised the athletes’ dedication to preparing for the Games.

“Our athletes work really hard to train and get here,” Anderson told NJ.com. “They really want that medal.”

In addition to the athletes, the College’s athletic facilities were also crowded with 3,000 volunteers and more than 10,000 spectators, according to the same NJ.com article.

“The nice thing about (the College) is (that) we take over the campus,” Anderson told NJ.com. “The community really embraces (the Games).”

The Games began with the 33rd annual Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR), in which more than 3,000 law enforcement officers across the state supported the Games by carrying the SONJ torch more than 750 miles. Last year, the run raised more than $3.5 million for SONJ, according to a LETR press release from Tuesday, April 19.

“From training to competition, and healthcare to athlete leadership opportunities, (SONJ) provides all of its programs completely free of charge to all of its athletes,” said Jason Schubert, senior director of Law Enforcement Sponsorship for SONJ, according to the same press release. “That would never be possible without the dedication of  our law enforcement officers. They raise millions of dollars for our athletes each year.”

According to a Signal article from Aug. 26, 2015, the College has hosted the competition for more than 20 years.

In addition to athletic events, SONJ also brought its Youth Activation Summits to the College, which was meant to bring together “opportunities for young people of all abilities to be leaders in their school and communities,” according to a Facebook post from SONJ published on Friday, June 10.

“Equality and acceptance are the themes as students with and without intellectual disabilities participate in leadership activities to help them find their voices and teach them to become agents for respect and inclusion,” the same post read.

According to the SONJ website, in order to be able to participate in the games, athletes must be at least 8 years old and identified by an agency or professional as having an intellectual or developmental disability or experience functional limitations in both general learning and adaptive skills.