Saturday was the first day of competition for the Unified floor hockey team from New York. They had to fit in a lot of games in a short amount of time to make sure they made the trek to Schladming in time for Opening Ceremony and ended the day 3-1 during their divisioning games.

The first match resulted in two goals vs. Uganda with athletes and Unified Partners really working together to pick apart their opponent.

The second game of the day against Cuba brought a different challenge – one this team hadn’t faced before – having to play from behind.

“Our guys were intimidated by the size of the Cubans going in,” Stewart said. “To see them bounce back with two goals after falling behind was nice. They showed heart and resiliency, which I’m sure I’ll need to remind them of as the tournament goes on.”

It was a very physical game, which brought out the best in the young, inexperienced team from New York.

“Some of our Unified Partners play ice hockey and said that they haven’t been hit has hard in those games as they were today (against Cuba and Russia),” Stewart said.

The third game saw them matched up against Russia, which resulted in a 1-5 loss.

“They just had our number every shift,” Stewart said. “But as tough as it was, Max Zalta (Unified Partner) wasn’t discouraged at all and talked to the team afterward. He said he felt if we changed our strategy, manned up more and focused on a defensive approach, it could really help against a team as fast and physical as Russia.”

They put that strategy to use in the team’s final game of the day vs. Bangladesh and came out on top with a 3-0 two-line shortened game.

Another player who really stood out on the court yesterday according was Christopher Lopez (defense) who set the tone against Cuba.

Assistant coach Liz Fernandez said, “The importance of having a Unified Partner and an athlete function in unison is that when they have athletes and sticks in hand, nobody can tell who is who and that’s critically important for a Unified team.”

The traditional florr hockey team from Southern California has at least one game on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Schedule is alwasy subject to change, so please see the full schedule (http://www.specialolympics.org/RegionsPages/GamesSchedule.aspx) for up-to-date information.

Sunday was a day of personal bests for all of Special Olympics USA’s 500m speed skaters:

  • Patrick Adams – 1:11 (personal record by three seconds)
  • Thomas Shimoda – 1:14 (personal record by six seconds)
  • Alyssa Neil – 1:27 (personal record by 18 seconds)
  • Craig Licorish – 1:16 (personal record by 20 seconds)
  • Timothy McConnell – 1:23 (personal record by 28 seconds)

Speed skating coach Ken Hart couldn’t have been more proud or ecstatic of how his skaters competed today during divisioning.

“I think the extra day of practice certainly helped,” Hart said. “They all shot off the line right off the bat and it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s great!’”

Hart kept track of their splits on every lap and noticed the trend of every skater being better on nearly every lap than they had ever been before.

Off the ice, Hart said he looks forward to the next few days as the team has more opportunities to take in everything else World Games has to offer including Olympic Town, Healthy Athletes and cheering on fellow teammates in other sports.

“Tim is the cheerleader of the team, which is surprising because he’s usually so quiet,” Hart said. “I think we’ll see more of that as we move out of divisioning and into the finals.”

Sunday’s schedule includes the following:

  • Women 222m: Dana Shick and Christina Dryer: 10 a.m.
  • Men 222m: Deontrea Grant and Cornell Gray: 10:30 a.m.
  • Men 777m: Patrick Adams, Thomas Shimoda and Craig Licorish: 11:30 a.m.