Three Naperville Athletes Win Gold at the Special Olympics

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From good friends to gold medalists. Naperville residents Louis Pisani, Ryan Gronowski, and Peter Silagi all represented Team Illinois’ flag football team in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games that took place in Orlando last week.

This is the first time that Team Illinois has participated in flag football at the USA Games. And they started with a bang, winning the gold medal game by a score of 26-20 in underdog fashion.

“We played Maryland. They were really quick. Very athletic. They had some good height. On paper, a little scary. Just from a competitive standpoint, in the game, we’re down at half by a point. So, it was incredibly tough and intense. We dug deep and had some really good game plans. Some athletes really took over and it was just a special, special game,” said Coach Phil Eide.

About the Players

Louis Pisani a 2016 graduate from Naperville North was seen as an MVP in Orlando. Normally the 24-year-old likes to play offense but this time around he stepped up on the defensive half of the field. Along with flag football he also plays “tennis, golf, softball, and soccer.”

24-year-old Ryan Gronowski or as his teammates call him, Gronkowski, is a 2016 graduate from Neuqua Valley. He is always the loudest fan at his siblings’ sporting events. But this time around, he was the one on the field with his family cheering him on from the stands.

“We had a party there, we ate food, and we drank lots of water there in Florida. It was very cool, very exciting,” said Gronowski.

Peter Silagi is the oldest of the three. The 32-year-old graduated from Waubonsie Valley in 2008 where he played basketball and took part in swimming, track, and bowling. As one of the older members on the flag football team, he stepped up into a leadership role.

“Just kind of keeping everybody in check and together and making sure everybody is in the right place and doing what they are supposed to do,” said Silagi.

Teammates Elsewhere

This isn’t the first time the three have played together. They are all a part of the DuPage Valley Special Athletes’ (DVSA) flag football team that has won Illinois’ State Championship twice. What makes this gold medal even more special is that Coach Phil Eide, their coach at the Special Olympics games, also coaches them at Western DuPage Special Recreation Association (WDSRA).

“It was unbelievable. We rock climb together. We go to the Fry YMCA on 95th. Basically weekly, during off seasons, we go to B-Dubs together. We’ve really done a lot. And so, to go to the USA games to have that emotional intense gold medal game that we won against a team that you could argue was better than us. It was honestly really emotional. It was very cool,” said Eide.

It’s a moment these players will likely never forget.

“Really happy,” said Pisani. “We did it, we got first place,” said Silagi. “So proud of our teams for USA,” said Gronowski.

Naperville News 17’s Anthony Yench reports.

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