NEWARK — Two twin sisters from the Sussex Riptide had constant smiles at the Special Olympics Delaware (SODE) Summer Games, both displaying similar excitement in their first ever appearance at the event held at the University of Delaware athletic facilities.
Their success mirrored one another, too.
Annmarie Perrotta, the younger sister by one minute, showed no disappointment when she was moved off the top step to the second-place podium as individual bocce scores were compiled right before medal presentation. She kept that same enthusiasm after being awarded with her silver medal.
“It was awesome, it was special,” she said after winning her first three matches on Friday and putting up a close fight in the fourth and final game.
“She’s the most energetic and joyful person that I’ve ever met,” said Stan Bak, the Riptide’s longtime bocce coach. “Look at her, she’s all the time smiling.”
After graduating from Cape Henlopen High School, Annmarie and her sister, Sara, both joined the Riptide — one of SODE’s five area teams — this year.
Sara was an athlete on the Riptide’s softball team, which won two games Friday and two games Saturday to clinch an undefeated record and the gold medal for their division.
Large cheers from the Riptide faithful erupted when Saturday’s gold medal game concluded, and Sara soon walked off the field ecstatic with her father, Steve Perrotta, who is a coach on the softball team.
Annmarie watched her sister on the softball field, and one day earlier, the opposite was true in the Delaware Field House for the bocce competition. Sara and her father stopped by after a long day of two games to congratulate Annmarie on her first ever medal.
“She has been pushing me,” Annmarie said of her older twin. “She’s helping me be better and stronger in all my sports I play.”
Sara said her younger sister had always enjoyed bocce since playing on a club in high school and was overjoyed to see her sister succeed at the Games, even as she had softball duties of her own to worry about.
With just one year under her belt with the Riptide, Annmarie is already very close to her new coach, who she said is great at getting the team prepared and always pushing them to succeed.
For Bak, 40 years of involvement with the Special Olympics all stems from his daughter’s participation in the organization since she was eight. Bak, his wife and his daughter, who also competes in bocce, have been involved ever since.
That foundation has made the Riptide’s bocce team a “very close-knit group,” despite being spread all throughout Sussex County. Bak even remarked that his wife and Annmarie have a tight bond, always racing one another in their scooter and wheelchair, respectively.
Bak and his athletes were split up into two groups during the practice season but came together for their last practice and the weekend’s competitions. A statewide practice in Dover also helped Annmarie meet fellow competitors from her bocce division before the Summer Games.
More smiles from the Perrotta twins are certain to come in future Summer Games, and the community of the Riptide and Special Olympics organization has allowed the sisters to start a new chapter of their lives with meaningful bonds.
“I met new friends here in bocce,” said Annmarie, “and they’ve been really helping me out since day one.”