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Equestrian Team South Carolina hits the road for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games

Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 12:02 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -The Special Olympics USA Games cover pretty much every corner of sport: track & field, bocce, bowling, cheerleading. Now, for the first time in USA Games history, you can add Equestrian to the mix, and put Team South Carolina down for the competition.

Preparing for the games is no small feat. For the past month, four riders for Team South Carolina have been training at Great Oaks Equine Assisted Programs in Aiken.

Sam Neighbors, Matthew Mickinac, Abby Beall and Jessica Kidd will be competing in Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex June 5-12.

The foursome have been under the guidance of coach Nicole Pioli. Pioli was selected from a pool of candidates for her previous leadership with the Special Olympics South Carolina state games.

“It’s unimaginable to think about what they’re overcoming in their everyday lives to have the experience to compete on a national stage like that. I think it really takes courage and I just feel like it’s such an honor to be a part of their story and a part of this lifelong memory for them,” said Pioli.

Like any Olympic equestrian competition, riders will be assigned horses compatible with their skill.

“The coaches were responsible for sending in an athlete profile. And there’s a technical delegate in Florida who’s matching or athletes with appropriate horses that have been selected to participate at USA Games,” Pioli said.

The athletes will participate in an obstacle trail and equitation rounds, where the riders will showcase their ability to effectively work with a horse.

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