Special Olympics Athlete Has Hockey Dreams

Decked out in a two-sizes-too-big red, white and black Carolina Hurricanes jersey, Rory Kinane of Charlotte entered the RBC Center in Raleigh to cheer on the Canes at a recent home game. The 10-year-old Special Olympics North Carolina speed skater is a huge hockey fan and one day wants to play on a team. He and his father were in attendance thanks to the generosity of Canes’ goalie Cam Ward.

Kinane was really revved up to see the Hurricanes play in person for the first time and could not stop talking about how excited he was for the chance to meet Ward afterward. However, when the time came to meet the Stanley Cup champion, Kinane got tongue-tied. His eyes were as big as saucers and he worked extra hard to answer Ward’s questions.

“For a second I thought he was telling me he was 40 years old,” laughed Ward. “Then it all came out . . . he was saying 4th grade and his dad explained he was 10. He was definitely a little nervous but after a few minutes I think he got more comfortable as we talked sports.”

Ward has hosted Special Olympics athletes at a Canes home game each month since the regular season began as part of his Cam’s Champs campaign where he and the public are working to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics North Carolina. For Kinane, his encounter with Ward was very memorable. He came away with an autographed jersey and numerous photos of the two smiling together.

“He cannot stop talking about Cam,” said Kinane’s father Roderick. “He’s got the photos on the wall in his room and we watch all the Canes games on TV now.”

Special Olympics created many memorable experiences for the Kinane family who have two children with intellectual disabilities, Rory and his older brother, Zachary.

“Both our boys are active in Special Olympics,” said Stephany Kinane. “The Program has given them sports skills and self confidence. Rory in particular has really been motivated since he found his niche on the ice.”

Kinane was usually the last skater off the ice, as well as the last to leave the rink after a Special Olympics speed skating practice at the Pineville Ice House. He would linger intentionally a year ago to get a glimpse of the local pros, the Charlotte Checkers, who also used the Pineville Ice House for their practices.

“He is very impressed with hockey players,” said Stephany Kinane. “He loves to see them in their uniforms and big pads.”

Playing on a hockey team is Kinane’s goal, but his parents challenged him with improving his skating before taking that next step. This is just the third year Kinane has been on ice skates. Two years ago, he got involved with the Special Olympics program at Sterling Elementary School. He never had a fear of the ice, but did have trouble balancing early on.

“Rory would run on the ice rather than skate,” described his mother. “It was cute but he wasn’t that fast last year,” she said. “In the last two years, with the added motivation to play hockey, he has improved.”

The improvement has been impressive according to his speed skating coach Tappie Dellinger. “He’s learned to stroke or push on the ice now,” said Dellinger. “He is able to glide between pushes too so he has much better speed skating form.”

Dellinger watched proudly as Kinane completed two races at this year’s 2007 Special Olympics North Carolina Winter Games in the Ice Skating competition in February. Kinane won a gold medal in the 333m speed skating race and a silver medal in the 500m race.

“Rory is always asking other athletes to race,” said Dellinger. “He’s got so much energy and such an interest in the sport. He often tells me, ‘I wanna go faster and faster! Is it my turn to race again?’”

Kinane’s enthusiasm and motivation will surely lead to him suiting up in a hockey uniform in the near future. In the meantime, he’ll continue to watch the professionals and sharpen his skills.

Special Olympics North Carolina

Greg Morrill
Mecklenburg County Coordinator
2400 Park Road. Suite B
Charlotte, NC 28203
(704) 358-1935
(704) 358-3211 (fax)
E-mail: gmorrill@sonc.net

Jonathan Embler
Area Coordinator
2400 Park Rd., Suite B
Charlotte, NC 28203
(704) 358-1935
(800) 358-6276
(704) 358-3211 (fax)
Visit www.sonc.net for more information.

Megan O’Donnell is the Vice President of Communications for Special Olympics North Carolina.