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Special Olympics opening ceremony held in Utica

By CAROLINE GABLE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Athletes marched up to Gaetano Stadium, at Utica College for the New York State Summer Special Olympics opening ceremony Friday night.

In just about 12 hours time they'll be stepping up to compete in eight different areas of athletics. The opening ceremony is a spectacular and emotional display of hard work and persistence, and while the athletes are very competitive, this event is about so much more than sports.

Mom and coach Jackie Pouyackt, traveled from Saratoga to Utica, with her son and her team... because she can't image being anywhere else. Special Olympics has given her hope, "Six years ago my son couldn't swim at all. He had to wear a floatation device and we worked with him with the coaches, and now he does the 25 meter he does the 50 meter and he uses no floatation at all. It is a special high, that's the way that I describe it. It is something that you can't get away from, lets put it that way."

One day ahead of the first competition, athletes like swimmer Debbie Piper pauses to reflect, and wrestle with pre-game jitters. "I'm doing the free-style and I'm nervous because I've never been to Utica," said Piper. But others have been here before and this is old hat to track and field athletes like Kyle Peetty, "I'm pretty confident and I just keep on doing it."

The experience athletes gain now will stay with them, long after their game days are over. The Director of Training at the Special Olympics, Bill Collins says the games teach life lessons that will serve participants later on, "Special Olympics athletes are five times more likely to get a job and hold a job independently in the community than their peers who don't participate in sports."

As the 25th law enforcement torch run is completed Friday night, and the Special Olympics cauldron is lit, and there's nothing left to say expect... Let the games begin.

Those games will begin Saturday morning at 8 am.

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