The Speedskating journey by Athletes Jay Choi and Bobby Opeia to the very-far North is a first for Area 26. We have not had athletes participate in this type of test trials in recent memory.
Here are the traveller's reflections on the experience...
Coach Jackie's Diary
The 2020 Special Olympics Sweden Invitational Games was an incredible experience for me as a coach/chaperone. It was my first time leading a group of athletes to an international event. I enjoyed the hospitality of the Swedish people. I had the honor to meet with Local organizing committees in DC last fall when they had pre-planning meeting at the Swedish Ambassador’s residence.
It was nice to get a warm welcome by familiar faces. I had a couple of athletes who competed in speed skating in Sweden.
The Skating Venue was a great facility, and the Referees were World Cup level certified. I know the rules and regulations of speedskating very well since I have another child who competes at the International level and I was impressed at the level of professionalism conveyed by the organizers.
There were many volunteers including some volunteers with disabilities. Despite language barriers, athletes and coaches all tried to communicate. We exchanged pins from the USA, and it was a great way to break the ice and start a conversation and meet new people.
I was really impressed by Healthy Athletes Program. As a parent attending Healthy Athletes in previous state games, I really didn’t think much about the program. Being a coach, I lead our athletes into the Program and really got to know about services/screenings it offers. I realized how many athletes are in need of these health services any why athletes are eager to go to Healthy Athletes Program.
Overall, Sweden Invitational was a wonderful event where we experienced different cultures and met athletes/coaches from different parts of the World. I was honored to be part of the Invitational Game.
Jay Choi's Diary
In Sweden, I met lots of athletes and coaches from around the world. I love Sweden’s weather - it was very cold and snowy. It was my winter wonderland.
I got to experience Swedish cultural activities before the Invitational Game. I tried Cross country skiing for the first time. I got to ride on a snowmobile, I tried on Swedish food. I got buried in snow with other athletes from Great Britain. We did snow fights and it was really fun. I really like the opening ceremony... there was a performance by a man who was swinging a stick lit on fire and juggling in a different direction.
At the Invitational Game, I competed in short-track speed skating. I got to compete in three different distances. During the races, I had a chance to compete with Russians, Netherlanders and Taipei and Hong Kong skaters. When the competition was over there was an award ceremony at the ice rink. I won three gold medals for the USA. It was my dream to win ONE gold medal .
During the healthy athlete program, I got interviewed about the purpose of healthy athletes. Overall, I had lots of fun hanging out with other athletes and competing in the Invitational World Games. I also enjoyed representing the USA and Area 26 in Sweden. I am so glad to have opportunities to compete at higher levels. One day, I would like to compete at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in speedskating. I would like to win more medals in the future and I will train hard to compete in the very competitive division.
Bobby Opiea's Diary
I left on Monday, February 5th for Munich, Germany in the evening. I slept on the plane to Munich. We went to Stockholm and then Ostersund. We joined about 300 others for competitions in downhill skiing, snow boarding, speed skating, and figure. This included delegations From Austria, Belgium, Russia, France, Great Britain, and USA.
On Tuesday, we went cross country skiing and snowmobiling for fun. They had a LOT of snow there. Jay got buried in the snow with other athletes from Great Britian, Poland, Norway, and Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, and the Netherlands. Their soccer team in 2011 make it all the way to the ELP Final and lost by a goal in stoppage time. Ostersund is near Norway. It is a small town with about 50,000 people.
Tuesday morning the group went to a place called Club Holiday which was a workout, dance, and swimming facility. One day we took a cable car up to the top of the local mountain. I only got a picture a the back a one of the athletes from France because it was so crowded. There was a lot of clouds, so the views were limited. I got a picture of it the ice rink. It was big and beautiful.
My other thoughts...
• Sweden is far away, cold and snowy
• Skating in Sweden is fun - the Ice Rink was HUGE
• I stayed at a military barracks for three days.
• The Opening Ceremonies were amazing
• I did a little cross country skiing when I was there on real snow!
• Trading pins with other athletes was a lot of fun - My favorite pin is from Chinese Taipei
• There was no internet, just a communal TV room
• Different types of music are playing during the awards ceremony. It was not the kind music you would hear in the USA.
Special Gallery - 2020 Test Trials
Stockholm, Sweden - Östersund February 1-4, 2020
Jay and Bobby take on the best in Short Track.