TICONDEROGA - The decision to cancel the 2011 Empire State Games has disappointed local athletes.
Citing New York's $9 billion budget gap, Empire State Games administrator Lisa Del Signore has written a letter to athletes informing them that the winter, summer, senior and games for the physically challenged have been canceled.
The winter games were scheduled for late February in Lake Placid and the summer games were set for Rochester in late July. The Olympic-style games are run by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Del Signore's letter said the agency has been told by the Paterson administration that there will be no state funding for the games.
The summer games were canceled in 2009 because of budget cuts.
Walt Thorne of Ticonderoga, a gold medalist in track and field at the 2010 Empire State Games, fears this may be the end of the event.
"I'm disappointed," he said. "I was looking forward to defending my 400 meter title in the 65-69 age group and possibly setting a record for the 70-74 age group, but I feel bad for the young athletes who won't get a chance to compete. This may signal the death of the games; too many disappointments."
Jim Cunningham, who has medaled in canoeing and cycling in past Empire State Games, was surprised by the decision to cancel the 2010 games.
" I had thought that the future of the games to be secure," he said. "After they had been cut in 2009 adjustments had been made: fees were increased; corporate sponsorship had been obtained. It wasn't enough; I looked into it and New York State still had to contribute $1.2 million.
"It is unfortunate that they are gone," Cunningham added. "I had been planning on going to the games in Rochester this summer and competing in the cycling time-trial event. Last time I finished in fourth place and I hoped to improve. Fortunately, there are alternatives. There is a state time-trial championship next summer and I plan on pointing my areo bars down that road.
"Others may not have alternatives," he said. "It is unfortunate that athletes, scholastic athletes in particular, will not be able to peruse their sport at that level."
Ted Santaniello, a Ticonderoga High School graduate who has competed in the scholastic and open division track and field, agrees. "It's really a shame that the Empire State Games had to be cancelled," he said. "It's a great experience for all who go. I feel lucky that I could be a part of them.
"With that being said, I also understand that certain cuts need to be made during our current economic condition," Santaniello said. "I hope that the games will be able to continue in the future with minimal fees so that all athletes can have a fair chance at competing for their region."