South Floral Park native heads to the Special Olympics with Lions hockey team

Julian Hunt, originally from Floral Park, will be competing with the Long Island Lions at the upcoming Special Olympics New York 2018 Winter Games in floor hockey. (Photo courtesy of Special Olympics New York)

Julian Hunt used to play street hockey with his friends growing up.

Now, the athlete is heading up to Rochester with the Long Island Lions to compete in the Special Olympics New York’s 2018 Winter Games.

“It’s really been a great season for me and I just love floor hockey,” Hunt said. “I just love it.” 

The 38-year-old currently lives in Westbury, but he grew up in South Floral Park where his mother still resides.

He said he’s been playing with the Long Island Lions since 2010, and he also competes in bowling, basketball and track and field.

Hunt said he likes playing on the Lions team because he never had the chance to play in high school since he was focussing on keeping up with his grades.

“They gave me the chance to play and I’m very thankful of that,” Hunt said. 

Along with hockey, Hunt also competes in bowling, basketball and track and field.
(Photo courtesy of Special Olympics New York)

Hunt and the Lions have already competed in three tournaments this year, including a trip to the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.

At the upcoming winter games, Hunt and his team will be joined by more than 1,000 athletes from across the state. The Opening Ceremonies begin on Feb. 23, and from there the tournament features competitions in a variety of winter sports including skiing, snowboarding and figure skating.

Hunt’s coach, Joe Branzetti, said the games are competitive, but win or lose, as long as his team’s having fun he’s happy.

Though, he added, Hunt loves to win.

“He’s in love with the medals,” Branzetti said. “He compares himself to Michael Phelps.”

Branzetti said that Hunt is an all-around great team player. While Hunt enjoys winning himself, Branzetti said he’s also supportive of the rest of his teammates.

If another player is also open on the hockey rink or the basketball court, Branzetti said, Hunt would much rather see his teammate score.

“He’s a good athlete, and he’s a good friend to the other athletes,” Branzetti said. “He always looks out for everybody.”

A couple of years ago Hunt had a heart valve replacement surgery. Since then, Branzetti said he’s kept a close eye on Hunt to make sure he isn’t wearing himself out during games or practices.

Occasionally, Branzetti said, he’ll have to take Hunt out to rest for a few minutes and drink water.

But after that, he’s right back on the field – exactly where he wants to be.

“It’s very fun,” Hunt said. “It’s just a great competition that I’m competing in.”


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