This week, Special Olympics Team USA headed to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, including two members of Team Connecticut – Steve Manzone and Ken Richter.
The World Games will begin on Thursday, March 14, and conclude on Thursday, March 21, and according to a press release, “This will be the first Special Olympics World Games held in the Middle East and North Africa region.”
It is slated to be the “largest humanitarian and multi-sport event in 2019,” with an estimated 7,000 athletes, 2,500 coaches, and 20,000 volunteers from around the world. There will be “24 summer sports,” with a “wide range of traditional sports, along with Unified Sports which bring people with and without intellectual disabilities together on the same teams,” according to the release. Richter and Manzone participate as an athlete and partner duo with Special Olympics Newington. And while both have experience playing many sports for Special Olympics, they’re traveling overseas to represent the best of American bocce.
“Bocce? I’ve been playing it since I was born, but, with Special Olympics I’ve been doing it for about eight years now,” said Manzone.
After returning home from basic training, a 19-year-old Manzone, was drafted into the Hamden chapter of Special Olympics by his sister-in-law when one of their partners was out due to an injury. Twenty-seven years later, Manzone still hasn’t stopped.
Manzone, a Bristol native, said his entire family is involved in Special Olympics. His son Tyler, a junior at Bristol Central High School, even helped the team pair practice as they prepared for the World Games.
According to a release, Manzone’s teammate, Richter, has been involved in Special Olympics for more than 45 years. He competed at the Special Olympics USA Games in 2010, and the 2008 Golf Invitational in Florida.
Manzone and Richter will be joined by several others who will serve Team USA in various ways.
Derrick Ford of East Haven will be a track and field athletics coach, and Kevin Smith of West Hartford will be a golf coach.
Laurie-Jean Hannon of North Haven will serve as a sports manager for team sports.
Trooper First Class Carlo Guerra “will participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run final leg.”
Yvonne Grimes will be a track and field athletic volunteer. Michele Adams of New Paltz, N.Y., Glen Deming of Meriden, and Karen Kalenauskas of Watertown will all serve as volunteers during the cycling games.
Oxford High School teammates Thomas Romeo and Jack Fairhurst, and school principal Dorothy Potter, will represent Connecticut and the USA at the Global Youth Leadership Summit.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.