News Article Details

Special Olympian wins big in bocce -- thrice

Free Press - 7/24/2018

July 24--MANKATO -- A local athlete brought back quite the haul from the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle early this month.

Robert Victorino won not one, not two, but three gold medals in bocce -- a sport where each side tries to roll at least one of their four balls closer to a target ball than their opponent.

The Mankato man started playing the sport about 15 years ago, but Seattle was his first experience in national competition.

Part of the Phoenix Special Olympics team out of St. Peter, he was selected to represent Minnesota's squad in the quadrennial competition. Victorino was one of 86 Minnesotans to compete among the 4,000 athletes from across the country in 14 team and individual events. He was also the only Mankato area athlete on the bocce team and one of the few southern Minnesotans competing in games.

Victorino's golds for his division came in singles, doubles and team competition. He described feeling nervous at first, but said the opportunity to compete against some of the best Special Olympians in the country ended up being a blast.

"We were really excited and it was really emotional when I won the singles," he said. "I was so overwhelmed that I won."

His exuberance is evident in a photo his wife, Jenny, took after the doubles competition. Standing next to his teammate on top of the podium, Victorino's arms are stretched high to the sky in celebration.

"I was so proud of him," Jenny said of the moment.

He said the key to his and his team's success was steady practice. He'd travel to practice with his team every other week leading up the games.

His personal cheering section didn't hurt, either. Along with Jenny, other friends and relatives came to watch.

With three gold medals in tow, Victorino plans to keep playing bocce. He first got into he activity because he thought it looked fun and accessible.

Victorino also enjoys teaching newcomers the sport, as he pointed out many aren't aware of what bocce is. One of the best things about it, he said, is how accessible it can be once you learn it.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArolaMFP.

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(c)2018 The Free Press (Mankato, Minn.)

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