Four athletes from Queens will be participating in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida, from June 5-12.
Kathlene Maggi and Conrad Chaing will be in the swimming events while Tim Roth and Jonathan Beiner will be competing in bocce. Beiner and Maggi are from Bayside, Roth is from Whitestone and Chaing is from Flushing.
The athletes’ coach, Jacquie Soulier, has been helping to train athletes for the Special Olympics at the Cross Island YMCA since 1991, when it was designated as an aquatic training center for Special Olympians. According to Soulier, the program has grown over time from 14 athletes to 40. With help from volunteers and the YMCA, the program has grown from swimming to also include basketball, floor hockey, track and field, bocce and tennis. She’s excited about her athletes being able to participate in the upcoming Special Olympics.
“They each have great personalities,” Soulier said. “It’s a wonderful feeling for each of them [to get this recognition].Special Olympics has been made to feel a welcome member of the YMCA family and through our mutual commitment it has flourished and become the largest community based Special Olympics training centers in New York City.”
“This honor is very important for me,” Beiner said. “I’ve been practicing very hard almost every day for the last year. I’m so happy to be able to make it with my friends and look forward to getting to know my other teammates.”
“This honor means a lot to me,” Maggi said. “I’ve been swimming for more than 20 years. This will be my first time participating in the games.”
Special Olympics serve athletes with intellectual disabilities, including the four Queens athletes, one of whom has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, two with autism and a fourth as mentally handicapped. As they prepare to leave for the games that are set to begin on June 5, the athletes will be accompanied on their journey by helpers.
The athletes will be taking a bus up to Albany on June 3 to meet up with the rest of the Olympians from New York State. They’ll also receive new equipment there. They’ll then take a plane to Orlando, Florida the following day before taking part in the opening ceremonies on June 5.
The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games is expected to bring together more than 5,500 athletes and coaches, according to its website. The team from New York will be competing in 14 of the 19 events offered.