Reopen NY: Special Olympics New York athletes resume training for fall season

NEW YORK (WABC) -- For the first time since the pandemic started, athletes involved with Special Olympics New York can participate in a sports season, while also following COVID health and safety guidelines.

There are more than 68,000 Special Olympics New York athletes who are hoping to return to sports, as all in-person events and activities have been suspended since March - including the signature state summer games.

"We started canceling our training clubs and everything in early March, obviously not thinking it was going to be as long as it was, so the training clubs were canceled, the local competitions were canceled and then their summer games which really brings a lot of them together was in June and that was canceled," said President and CEO of Special Olympics New York Stacey Hengsterman.

So they turned to at -home virtual activities and now, in accordance with federal and state guidelines, Special Olympics New York is preparing a phased approach for a return to activities for fall sports.

"It's no direct or indirect contact, so we're not even allowing in the first phase to throw a ball back and forth to each other, but we're focusing on skills, individual skills, we can do it," Hengsterman said. "We're really working on individual skills, but finding activities that are competitive that they can do and I think our team has done a pretty good job of that."

And while it may not be possible for all athletes to return to in-person activities right away, there are plans to continue with virtual engagement as well.

"We have to make sure that all of our other athletes have that same competitive opportunity, so that's where the season at home comes in, so we'll have something for everybody, but only a small percentage we expect right now to be able to return to play in person," Hengsterman said.

She went on to say that the need has never been greater to get the athletes back into regular training and the athletes need this now more than ever before.

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