LOS ANGELES, Calif. – After months of preparation, three athletes from Special Olympics New Jersey will finally be on their way to the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in the Republic of Korea. The team has one last stop today — all 213 members of Special Olympics Team USA will gather in Los Angeles for a special send-off ceremony at 7 p.m. PT at the Crowne Plaza in Los Angeles before leaving for Korea on Friday, Jan. 25.
US Olympic gold medalist and soccer legend Julie Foudy, and Special Olympics Southern California Co-founder and two-time US Olympic decathlon gold medalist Rafer Johnson are expected to join the team for the sendoff.
The 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games take place from Jan. 29-Feb. 5. Special Olympics Team USA is comprised of 152 athletes and 61 volunteer coaches/staff members from throughout the United States.
Three New Jersey athletes will participate in the games:
- Junichi Kusakawa, 27, from West Windsor will compete in Cross Country Skiing. Junichi qualified for the 2013 World Winter Games after he took home the Gold in the 1K. He also took home Silver in the 500M, and he previously competed in Cross Country Skiing at the 2009 World Winter Games in Idaho. Junichi also competes in Bowling at the area and state level.
- Maureen Larsen, 25, from Sea Isle City will compete in Alpine Skiing. Maureen qualified for the 2013 World Winter Games after she took home the Gold in both Intermediate Slalom and Intermediate Super G at the SONJ 2012 Winter Games. She also competes in Track & Field (800M, 1500M, 4×100 and 4×400) and Cycling (10K and 5K). Maureen had previously competed in Track & Field at the 2003 World Summer Games in Ireland.
- Rebecca Scheick, 23, from Ewing will compete in Snowshoeing. Becky qualified for the 2013 World Winter Games after she took home Gold in both the 100M and 200M at the SONJ 2012 Winter Games. She also competes in Aquatics (50M Backstroke, 50M Freestyle, 4×25 Medley Relay, 4×40 Free Relay & 4×50 Medley Relay), Bowling and Soccer. Becky had previously competed in the 2009 World Winter Games in Idaho in Cross Country Skiing, before switching to Snowshoeing in 2012.
All three athletes attended training camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., in mid-December where they met their teammates and coaches for the first time.
This is the 10th Special Olympics World Winter Games. It will unite more than 2,400 athletes from more than 110 countries in PyeongChang and Gangneung, South Korea. More than 15,000 family, friends, volunteers and spectators are expected to attend.
Special Olympics Team USA is sponsored by Finish Line, Karbon, MTM Recognition, and American Federation of Teachers.