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Special Olympics Swimmers Set for Summer Games

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Chris Moyer, Nell Johnsmeyer and Claire Foley did not hesitate when asked about their prospects with the Hudson Valley Special Olympics swim team, which will compete this month in the New York State Special Olympics Summer Games in Buffalo.

"We are going to be the best, swim hard all the time," said Moyer, a 24-year-old who prefers the freestyle events. "We have to work hard on freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke. Then we go to Buffalo, yes!"

Moyer, Johnsmeyer and Foley are on a team of seven swimmers from the Westchester area who will represent the Hudson Valley at the Summer Games, which will run June 15-17 on the campus of the University of Buffalo.

Hudson Valley is one of several regions for Special Olympics New York, which was introduced to Westchester and Putnam counties in 1972. The local team will send 143 athletes to represent Westchester and Putnam.

Johnsmeyer, a 31-year-old veteran athlete of nine Summer Olympics from New Rochelle, is thrilled to be competing in another.

"The Games are about respect, honesty and trust," Johnsmeyer said. "I love to travel, meet people, have my family there. I love to swim, too, and we're practicing all the time to be better."

The Hudson Valley swimmers work out at the Hommocks Middle School in Mamaroneck on Tuesdays, doing individual lap work focused on technique and speed.

"I like the backstroke best," Foley, 22, said as she demonstrated her technique at poolside, alternating her arms back over her shoulders. "This is the backstroke. You have to kick hard when you start in the pool. Then go, go, go."

The Hudson Valley team is coordinated by Suzanne Elson, longtime Special Olympics coach and training program director of the Sound Shore Stars. Elson has mentored many of the Hudson Valley team members over her 30 years on the job.

"The athletes are very enthusiastic," Elson said. "We enjoy going to the Summer Games because the event offers the athletes an opportunity to meet other athletes and compete on a high level. Many of our people have really become very strong in all the sports."

For Foley, Moyer and the rest of the Hudson Valley swimmers, the hard work in the pool will last another week before the buses arrive to take the team to Buffalo.

"OK," Foley said as the team took a break from the weekly swim practice for a photo shoot. "We have to practice more. Take our picture and then we have to get back to practice."

The other members of the Hudson Valley Swim Team are Joey Lombardozzi, Colleen Victory, David Majac and Kim Weiss.

The local Special Olympics organizations support nearly 3,500 athletes year-round with 1,500 local volunteers. They receive financial support from the Fraternal Order of Police, Knights of Columbus, Civil Service Employees Association, IBM, Cablevision and CH Energy.

For information about the Westchester-based New York State Special Olympics programs, visit www.specialolympicsny.org or call the regional offices at 845-765-2497.

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