Ballston Spa native Robert (Bobby) Pickard finished in third place during a golf competition at this year’s Special Olympics and returned home this week after his arduous journey taking him to the other side of the world, and back.
Pickard was one of nine New York athletes to compete in Athens, Greece during the games and competed in the nine-hole individual stroke event. His division consisted of 253 competitors, according to information from the development and public awareness leg for Special Olympics New York.
Capital District athletes returned to Albany International Airport on Wednesday, July 6, after the competition spanning from Saturday, June 25 to Thursday, July 4. The US sent 315 athletes to the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, comprised of close to 7,000 athletes from 180 different countries.
Renee Snyder, vice president of development and public awareness for Special Olympics New York said the non-profit organization works year round to raise an average of $7.5 million to operate, and its costs about $8,700 per athlete, with training and travel expenses. All of the money is either raised or provided in grants.
She said, though, the athletes remain in their communities during most of their time, and although it is worldwide competition, it all starts at home.
“All of them train right in their local communities,” she said. “It’s in everyone’s backyards.”
The competitors are subject to qualifying matches and stipulations before they get a chance on the world stage, and to even be selected to go to the Special Olympics requires tireless hours of training and competing.
“[The athletes] demonstrated courage, competed against athletes from around the globe, and experienced an incredible once in a lifetime opportunity,” according to a statement from Special Olympics New York.
The event, running every two years, drew more than 25,000 volunteers, 3,000 event officials and thousands of families, spectators and journalists from every continent. This year was the 13th Special Olympics competition. According to Special Olympics New York, the world-wide contest is the largest amateur sports organization in the world and is comprised of 51,809 athletes. New York is the largest chapter in North American and the sixth biggest in the world.
“Special Olympics New York athletes train and compete year-round in 22 sports, the Young Athletes Program and the Motor Activities Training Program – at no cost the athlete, their families or caregivers,” according to the organization.