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2014 USA Games Team Missouri newsletter — Sunday edition

Hello from New Jersey!

Today most of the sports teams were able to go to their venues and see where they would be playing  this week. Some even had the chance to practice, which was nice after such a long travel day yesterday.

Tennis started the morning off with divisioning competition. One Unified Sports team of Jeremie Ballinger and Bobby Williams went 4-0 with wins over Maryland (10-4 and 10-0), South Carolina (10-6) and New Jersey (11-9). To get a first-hand account of how the team faired, check out Jeremie’s blog at

The other team of Ashley Wurst and Brittany Selken won two matches (Maryland 10-4 and New Jersey 10-5) and lost two (Rhode Island 7-10 and Connecticut 6-10).

Overall, coaches Linda Wiederholt and Peggy Llewellyn-Neff said they were proud of how both teams battled and got their nerves out of the way early as they head into competition Monday, which will include being a part of the Unified Sports Showcase under the lights on center court at the beautiful Mercer County Park beginning as early as 6 p.m.

Family Pep Rally
More than 120 family members and friends attended the Family Pep Rally at the family hotel Sunday morning where Team Missouri Assistant Head of Delegation Susan Shaffer addressed the family members. Shaffer talked about what they could expect throughout the week at each of the venues.

SOMO President and CEO Mark Musso also took time to thank the parents for coming all the way to New Jersey to support their athletes. He told them that while this week is for the athletes, it’s also for them as well and for them to enjoy it! He also told them to focus on this week being more about a journey instead of the destination.

There were plenty of goodies for the families to take to the venues throughout the week to cheer on not just their team, but the rest of Team Missouri as well. It sounded like they were pretty excited to defend the “Best Fans of the Games” award that we received in 2010 at the games in Lincoln, Neb.

Opening Ceremony
All of the team traveled on buses to Newark, New Jersey for Opening Ceremony at the Prudential Center where the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League play their home games. The WHOLE highway was shut down so that the buses could travel and have police escorts. Not just certain sections of the highway, but the whole thing. It was a sight to see. Photos are on the mobile app photo gallery and our social media accounts (Twitter: @SOMissouri & Facebook: SpecialOlympicsMO). One of our bus drivers said he’s been driving charter busses around the state for years and he’s never seen anything like it.

Actor and super model Brooklyn Decker and Philadelphia 76ers Rookie of the Year Michael Carter Williams hosted the Opening Ceremony. A Billy Joel tribute band performed as did a few, select members of the Broadway show “Wicked.”

Actor Jane Lynch and The Big Show and David Otunga of the WWE and multiple other celebrities made appearances. A Unified softball team from Maryland carried in the Special Olympics flag and hung it with Lashelle Griffin singing. Then came time for the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg participants to bring the torch in and light the cauldron to signify the beginning of the games.

The whole focus of the Opening Ceremony was “Unify.” From how the athletes interact with themselves and the volunteers this weekend to the different sports that feature Unified Sports teams, the message was about making sure everyone knew that we are more alike than different and that unites us all. Each part of the cauldron represented a foundation of Special Olympics. They lit the torch and Chairman of Special Olympics Inc., Tim Shriver declared the games officially open.

The athletes made it back to the dorms around 10 p.m. and received their boxed dinner (a little late, but we were so hungry didn’t care) and headed off to bed to begin their week of competition.

For photos from the Family Pep Rally and Opening Ceremony, click here. or you can look on Flickr at, which will also let you download full high-resolution photos.

Mobile App
Don’t forget to download the Team Missouri mobile app on your Apple or Android devices. This will be the most immersive MO Magic experience and the best way to follow the team all week while our athletes are busy making you all proud back home. Whether you’re joining us in New Jersey or watching from afar, the app really does have something for everybody (schedules, photo galleries, alerts on when athletes receive awards, videos and more!). If you don’t have a mobile device capable of utilizing the app, you can still access the app via the web at or just stay tuned at

“We had police escorts that took us all the way to Newark. We got our first glimpse of the New York City skyline which was pretty neat…” Read the rest of Rachel Antal, the Public Relations Assistant’s, blog at

“The National Anthem singer put a unique twist on it, which usually makes me cringe, but this was actually a really cool rock version that ended in fireworks. Several entertainers performed, my favorite of which was the cast of Wicked singing “Defying Gravity.” Read the rest of Mandi, the Bowling Sports Manager’s, blog at

“Our mission today was simple; experience USA Games Opening Ceremonies and let it blow our minds!” Read the rest of Jocelyn, a Unified Golf partner’s, blog at

Athletics athlete Allen Tobin gives you a behind the scenes look before Opening Ceremony (

Bocce athlete Matthew Cepeda lets you walk into Opening Ceremony with Team Missouri (