Dover woman shines at Special Olympics World Games

Patricia Pecora, of Dover, competes in a swimming event in the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, United Emirates, last month. “All I thought about were bringing home those medals when I was competing,” she said. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — Patricia Pecora has been competing in Special Olympics for 13 years in the sports of swimming, basketball and soccer.

But her main goal has always been competing at the World Games, seizing the moment if the opportunity ever presented itself.

She finally got her chance as a swimmer at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, representing the U.S. by winning a silver medal in the 4 by 50-meter swim freestyle relay and individually bringing home a bronze medal in the 50-meter freestyle swim competition and a fourth place in the individual 50-meter backstroke.

“All I thought about were bringing home those medals when I was competing,” said Ms. Pecora, 33, of Dover. “That was the only thing on my mind.”

The 2019 Special Olympics was held from March 14 to 21. Every two years Special Olympians come together to compete at the World Games, alternating summer and winter sports.

The 2019 edition was the largest Special Olympics World Games in history, with an estimated 7,500 athletes from 192 nations competing in 24 Olympic-type sports: athletics, badminton, basketball, beach volleyball, bocce, bowling, cycling, equestrian, football, golf, artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, handball, judo, kayaking, open water swimming, powerlifting, roller skating, sailing, swimming, table tennis, tennis, triathlon, and volleyball.

Ms. Pecora shows off her silver medal she won in the 4 by 50-meter swim freestyle relay, a bronze medal in the 50-meter freestyle swim competition and a fourth place ribbon in the individual 50-meter backstroke. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

“It was the most exciting thing that I’ve ever done,” said Ms. Pecora, who has a developmental disability.

She was joined as state champions by Andrew Crout, of Newark, who won bronze medals in both the singles and doubles tennis tournaments and bowler Edward Joyner, of Middletown, who placed sixth and seventh, respectively, in the singles and doubles bowling competition.

Mary Moore of Wilmington served in the role of tennis head coach for Team USA and Master Cpl. Gary Fournier of the Delaware State Police represented Delaware in the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg.

They all qualified for the World Games by earning gold medals at the Special Olympics Delaware Summer Games held at the University of Delaware athletic complex last June.

Ms. Pecora was glad all of her hard work paid off.

“I work out on the treadmill for up to an hour each day,” Ms. Pecora said. “The YMCA in Dover really helped me out a lot. They helped me practice on my swim stroke and technique. I’m really appreciative of them.”

Parents Jill and Andy were there with her every step of the way.

“I think swimming really gives her a chance to be free,” Mrs. Pecora said. “I think it calms and soothes her, which is why I think she enjoys it so much.”

Mr. Pecora shared the same sentiment.

“She always loved the water,” Mr. Pecora said. “Every time there was a pool or anything like that around, she always was eager to get right in.

Patricia Pecora, center, stands with proud parents Andy and Jill Pecora, of Dover. “I hope I have a chance to go back,” Ms. Perora said. “When I go back I want gold medals this time.” (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

“Even though she competed in the Special Olympics in other sports on a local and national level I think swimming ended up being the sport that helped her to the World Games because it’s something she really enjoys doing.”

The 12-hour plane ride was the only time Ms. Pecora said she was nervous during the experience.

But all that went away when it was time to compete.

“It was a long flight,” Ms. Pecora said. “I think we were all nervous and excited at the same time on the way there. But once we got there and it was time to compete I wasn’t nervous at all. I treated it like it was a regular competition.”

She said being in Abu Dhabi with her family was a great experience.

“I remember it being beautiful,” she said. “It was a great time.”

She continues to have her eyes on the prize, as she hopes to compete at the next Special Olympic World Games in 2021.

“I hope I have a chance to go back,” Ms. Perora said. “When I go back I want gold medals this time.”

Arshon Howard is a freelance writer living in Dover.

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