Nicole Landoskey has the grace and radiant smile of a champion.
She’s earned it.
The 24-year old North Myrtle Beach woman recently returned from the Special Olympic World Summer Games in Los Angeles with both a gold and a bronze medal in Bocce. She won gold in the team competition, bronze in the doubles, and even got a ribbon for her seventh-place finish in the singles competition.
Landoskey was one of more than 6,500 athletes from 160 countries who took part in this year’s games from July 25 to Aug. 2.
“I met people from all over the world,” she said. “It was really exciting to be chosen to go all the way out of state to support the USA.”
She was one of five athletes who made the trip from South Carolina, each competing in a different sport. (The others were sailing, golf, tennis and an equestrian category.) She was the only one from Horry County. Athletes first have to qualify in their sport, then are chosen in a blind draw.
She’s a very bubbly and energetic athlete and just always has a smile on her face.
Eric Karney area director for the Special Olympics
Bocce is an Italian game similar to lawn bowling where players roll heavy balls with the goal of getting each one to stop as close as possible to a smaller ball. Landoskey has been playing for nine years. She began while attending North Myrtle Beach High School and continued after she graduated. She has a true love for the game and has dedicated herself to becoming skilled at it.
“It takes lots of practice,” she admitted. “The secret is where to stand. You can’t just roll the ball because you don’t want to knock the other team’s ball closer. You want to get your ball closer.”
Her father, Frank Landoskey, along with Nicole’s sister Rosemary, went to Los Angeles to watch Nicole compete.
“The opening ceremonies probably took four hours for them to bring all the athletes in from all of the countries. And then, while she was there, she had her picture taken with Michelle Obama,” Frank Landoskey said. He said they haven’t received the autographed photo yet, but expect it to arrive any day.
Nicole Landoskey got to meet a few other celebrities, as well: “I met Joe Jonas, I met Jamie Foxx and Stevie Wonder.”
It was Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers who presented Nicole Landoskey and the rest of her team with their gold medals. And, according to her father, she didn’t just meet Jamie Foxx…
“As a matter of fact, she was playing Bocce ball with Jamie Foxx. She was showing him how to play the game.”
...it’s an honor to be chosen, but it’s not about the medals, it’s a matter of being chosen to go.
Nicole Landoskey Horry County Special Olympian
Athletic ability runs in the family. Rosemary Landoskey, who is also a Special Olympics athlete, competed in the National Bowling Tournament in El Paso, Texas, earlier this year and won a bronze medal there. Her father says it’s been quite a year.
“I’m ecstatic for both of them. This is something I never thought, in my wildest dreams, might happen when we moved to Myrtle Beach.”
Frank Landoskey and his wife were foster parents in West Virginia when they first began taking care of Nicole and Rosemary who were biological sisters both with intellectual disabilities. They later adopted the girls to keep them from being separated. Nicole was 3-and-a-half and Rosemary was a little less than 2 years old.
The family lived in a rural area at the time and as the girls got older, Frank said they decided it would be best to move somewhere with more activity. Twelve years ago they moved to the South Carolina coast.
“We ended up moving down here to North Myrtle Beach where they could go to the beach and walk to the stores, and do other things,” he said.
Those other things included getting involved in Special Olympics. Horry County has an active, all-volunteer chapter.
“Our local program is growing by leaps and bounds,” said area director Erik Karney, “because we have different organizations that are coming in and saying, ‘we want to support Special Olympics locally.’”
Karney, who is also an Horry County police officer, said local law enforcement has become involved with fundraising which helps cover the costs of the training and travel required to get athletes like Nicole Landoskey to get ready for the World Games. He said “she worked hard, deserved to go and represented the community well.”
“Just throughout the year she was fantastic. She’s a very bubbly and energetic athlete and just always has a smile on her face.”
Some of the costs to send athletes to the World Games are covered at the state level. Leigh Cheatham, director of communications for Special Olympics South Carolina, says these athletes train hard to get to this level.
5 the number of athletes who represented South Carolina in the Special Olympics this year
“It was a great experience and showcase of what our athletes can do globally,” she said. She added the group from South Carolina not only performed well, but they had a great time.
“It was a great event. They were just blown away. It was fantastic.”
Since returning home, Nicole Landoskey has gone back to work at Goodwill, which held a big party at the Little River store to honor their “hometown hero.”
Even though life is back to normal, she’s grateful for the experience.
“The World Games really changed my life in a special way because I was excited to meet people from other countries,” she said.
And when people here ask her what it was like to win a gold medal, she says the best part was the journey.
“I tell them it’s an honor to be chosen, but it’s not about the medals, it’s a matter of being chosen to go.”
If you’d like to know more about Special Olympics South Carolina you can go to www.so-sc.org. You can also make donations to the Horry County organization on the website. If you’d like more information on Horry County Special Olympics, you can contact Erik Karney via email at email@example.com.