Stamford teen Maya Todrin has two words to describe how she feels about competing in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games next summer: "Way awesome."
The 14-year-old will be competing in the unified tennis games, along with Kyra and Barbara Fitzpatrick, of Darien, and Greg Moran, of Wilton. The four locals are among 76 Special Olympians from the state, who will go to Princeton, N.J., in June.
"She played when she was little and started with the Special Olympics two years ago," said Hildi Todrin, Maya's mother.
Maya and her father competed in the Special Olympics Connecticut Games, winning a gold medal and qualifying her for the national competition. After that, Maya's name was put into a lottery and chosen for the summer games.
Since then, her mother said, Maya has had some practices with the other athletes and has been "super excited" to go.
"It's been fun for her to meet the other athletes," she said.
All of the athletes gathered at Chelsea Piers on Blachley Road Tuesday, as Special Olympics Connecticut announced its team members for the 2014 USA Games. The unified sports partners, coaches, chairpersons and sponsors also attended.
David Tewksbury, president of Chelsea Piers, said they were proud to host Tuesday's event and understand the importance of training and hard work. He said the athletes will continue preparing for the games, which will include about 10,000 competitors.
"Nothing thrills us more than having competitive athletes in our facility," Tewksbury said.
Tom Joyce, member of the Special Olympics Board of Directors, introduced some of the coaches and medical team for the event. He was joined by Kristine Lilly, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist in Soccer and Connecticut's honorary head coach.
"It's quite a process to get here," Lilly said. "Our team is pumped and ready to start training for New Jersey."
Together, Joyce and Lilly announced all of the teams, who marched onto the stage as the audience cheered for them. The athletes are from all around the state, including Old Lyme, Guilford, Middlebury, Hamden, Manchester, New Haven, Milford, Shelton, Bristol, Windsor, Torrington, Mystic, Trumbull and Wallingford.
They stood on the stage with their teams, some putting their hands in the air and shouting out their different sports. The sports are: Aquatics, athletics, triathlon, bocce, bowling, cycling, golf, power lifting, tennis, basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball.
Joyce said this is the first time Special Olympics has had a triathlon as part of the competition, so they're thrilled to have a team representing Connecticut.
When the introductions were over, Joyce said, "All right, this might be an understatement -- what a great team."
Joyce said it's "quite the family," with siblings, twins, parents and children all competing in the big event.
"Congratulations and good luck to all of you," he said.
Several local companies are sponsoring the event, including the William Pitt Foundation, GE Capital and WWE.
"We're proud to support you and wish you the best of luck in the events to come," said Warner Depuy, of the William Pitt Foundation. "So train hard."
Stephanie McMahon, executive vice president of creative at WWE, is also serving as the honorary team chairwoman and took pictures with all of the team members.
"I look out at this courageous group of athletes and I know that you will make us all proud at the Special Olympics next June," McMahon said.
Loretta Claiborne, motivational speaker and Special Olympian, brought some laughs to the event, as she told her fellow athletes they might have to "give up those extra chips" if they're a runner or "give up that extra TV show" if they are a bowler.
"For each and every one of you that are sitting here, there are 10 people that wish they were here," Claiborne said.
"I train every day," Brixner said. "I go out running or I use an elliptical that we have downstairs."
"I practice a couple days out of the week," Malan said.