Chilly temps an obstacle for athletes

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CARRABASSETT VALLEY – Nearly 1,000 athletes, coaches, family members and organizers are getting ready this weekend for the 37th annual Special Olympics Maine winter games.

Held at Sugarloaf/USA for 25 years running, the games for athletes aged 8 and up who have intellectual disabilities start officially on Monday morning with the opening ceremonies.

But before that, nearly 1,000 people will descend on Sugarloaf over the course of the weekend for a Sunday night potluck supper, along with moonlight skating, skiing, karaoke and a bonfire, according to a Special Olympics Maine statement.

The 500 athletes competing usually spend six to eight weeks in training, President Phil Geerhoed said Friday. But weather has been somewhat of an obstacle this year. The lack of snow means lots of people were snowshoeing on grass this winter, getting ready for their races, he said. “Course, that’s a lot easier than skiing on grass,” he joked.

Geerhoed said he hopes temperatures – which hovered below zero Friday – rise before Monday, when the games begin in earnest.

“We’re anxiously watching all the forecasts,” he said.

On Monday, athletes will compete in Alpine and Nordic skiing events, speedskating, snowshoeing and dual ski, before heading in for a banquet of champions, a torchlight parade, and the long-awaited Victory Dance.

Competition and finals will continue on Tuesday, and closing ceremonies are scheduled for noon that day.

“The community has embraced this event and certainly our athletes,” Geerhoed said of Sugarloaf/USA and the surrounding area.


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