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‘Dream come true:’ 3 Rochester Special Olympics athletes to compete in Italy at 2025 World Games

todayDecember 17, 2023 12

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Christmas came early for three athletes who are part of Rochester’s Special Olympics.

It was just a typical Sunday practice for skaters Matthew Gabello, Cori Piels, and alpine skier Paige Ditzel at the Tim Hortons Iceplex.

But behind the ice, their families knew they were about to receive the exciting news of being selected to join Team USA at the 2025 Special World Games in Torino, Italy.

Karalee Piels adopted her daughter Cori from India when Cori was six years old. She said when she came to the U.S., she couldn’t speak and hold no muscle tone.

“Just walking across the room was a difficult thing for her,” Karalee said.

But after quickly learning that Cori enjoyed watching ice skating on TV, there was no way Karalee was going to be able to say no to Cori when she wanted to hit the ice herself.

“By the time she was 10, she started nagging at me,” Karalee said. “I kept saying ‘No, no.’ I didn’t want her to do something where she wasn’t going to be successful.”

In her teens when she started, Cori would soon prove this was her passion.

“She took to the ice like it was meant to be,” Karalee said.

After independent lessons, someone told Karalee and Cori about Special Olympics, and Cori’s journey was able to continue.

“From the first time she heard about State Games, she said ‘Mom, my goal is to go to World Games,” Karalee said.

And today, on her favorite place, that dream came true for Cori and two of her teammates.

Special Olympics President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman joined the Rochester team on the ice to present them with plane tickets.

“Special Olympics has 42,000 athletes across the state,” Hengsterman said. “We got five spots and one team spot to compete at the World Games in Italy, and three of those athletes are in Rochester.”

“I am so, so excited,” Cori said. “I never thought this would happen. But today, yes. I’ve been wanting to compete at the Worlds for a long time. I’ve been working so hard, and I’ve just been happy.”

Matthew Gabello told News 8 he has been to Italy before to visit his family. And to be able to go back and have his family see him compete, is exciting.

“My cousin is from Italy, and I want him to be there,” Gabello said. “I’m [also] working on Broadway right now, I’m doing ‘The Lion King’ Broadway production on ice and am also in Wicked.”

The three athletes will head to Italy in 2025 to compete.

​ ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Christmas came early for three athletes who are part of Rochester’s Special Olympics.

It was just a typical Sunday practice for skaters Matthew Gabello, Cori Piels, and alpine skier Paige Ditzel at the Tim Hortons Iceplex.

But behind the ice, their families knew they were about to receive the exciting news of being selected to join Team USA at the 2025 Special World Games in Torino, Italy.

Karalee Piels adopted her daughter Cori from India when Cori was six years old. She said when she came to the U.S., she couldn’t speak and hold no muscle tone.

“Just walking across the room was a difficult thing for her,” Karalee said.

But after quickly learning that Cori enjoyed watching ice skating on TV, there was no way Karalee was going to be able to say no to Cori when she wanted to hit the ice herself.

“By the time she was 10, she started nagging at me,” Karalee said. “I kept saying ‘No, no.’ I didn’t want her to do something where she wasn’t going to be successful.”

In her teens when she started, Cori would soon prove this was her passion.

“She took to the ice like it was meant to be,” Karalee said.

After independent lessons, someone told Karalee and Cori about Special Olympics, and Cori’s journey was able to continue.

“From the first time she heard about State Games, she said ‘Mom, my goal is to go to World Games,” Karalee said.

And today, on her favorite place, that dream came true for Cori and two of her teammates.

Special Olympics President & CEO Stacey Hengsterman joined the Rochester team on the ice to present them with plane tickets.

“Special Olympics has 42,000 athletes across the state,” Hengsterman said. “We got five spots and one team spot to compete at the World Games in Italy, and three of those athletes are in Rochester.”

“I am so, so excited,” Cori said. “I never thought this would happen. But today, yes. I’ve been wanting to compete at the Worlds for a long time. I’ve been working so hard, and I’ve just been happy.”

Matthew Gabello told News 8 he has been to Italy before to visit his family. And to be able to go back and have his family see him compete, is exciting.

“My cousin is from Italy, and I want him to be there,” Gabello said. “I’m [also] working on Broadway right now, I’m doing ‘The Lion King’ Broadway production on ice and am also in Wicked.”

The three athletes will head to Italy in 2025 to compete. Read More NewsRochesterFirst  

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