Warm hearts thaw cold day at Winter Games

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Special Olympics athletes didn't let single-digit temperatures stop them from competing in snowshoeing, and Alpine, Nordic, and slalom skiing on Monday at Sugarloaf/USA.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Keith Draper of Greene sets aflame the Olympic cauldron marking the start of the 42nd Annual Special Olympics Maine Winter Games at Sugarloaf/USA on Monday. Draper who is competing in the snowboarding events was given the honor of carrying the Olympic torch. More than 500 Special Olympians will be participating in the games.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Special Olympian Ryan Schwartz, left, of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris celebrates his win in the 100 meter snowshoe dash with teammate Zach Schoonmaker at the Special Olympics Maine Winter Games   at Sugarloaf/USA on Monday. Schwartz qualified for the medal round in the 400 meter snowshoe race.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Special Olympian Ryan Schwartz, front, of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris bolts off the starting line in the 100 meter snowshoe dash followed by his teammate Zach Schoonmaker at the Special Olympics Maine Winter Games at Sugarloaf/USA on Monday. Schwartz won his race qualifying him for the 400 meter snowshoe medal race.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

A Nordic skier competes at the Special Olympics Maine Winter Games at Sugarloaf/USA on Monday.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

The Special Olympics Maine Winter Games team from John F. Murphy Homes of Auburn makes its entrance during the opening ceremonies parade at Sugarloaf/USA on Monday.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Speed skaters compete at the Special Olympics Maine Winter Games at Sugarloaf/USA on Monday.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

The Special Olympics Maine Winter Games team from Minot Consolidated School makes its entrance during the opening ceremonies parade at Sugarloaf/USA on Monday.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

The Special Olympics Maine Winter Games team from Lisbon makes its entrance during the opening ceremonies parade at Sugarloaf/USA on Monday.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

The Special Olympics Maine Winter Games team from Auburn makes its entrance during the opening ceremonies parade at Sugarloaf/USA on Monday.

Bryce Kennedy of Orono was hoping to add another medal, or at least a ribbon, he said, to his collection. Last year, he brought home a silver medal in snowshoeing.

“I have a lot, and I keep them in a drawer in my bedroom,” he said. “I haven’t counted them, though.”

This is his first year competing in the sit-ski event, and he was excited about trying something new.

“There are cones, and you have to go around them,” Kennedy said. “I think I did OK.”

In the sit-ski event, the skis are on either side of a seat, he explained, and the athletes are towed to the top of the obstacle course. The downhill run requires some dexterity and quick maneuvering. Skiers are timed as they race through checkpoints.

Orono sit-ski athletes Reis Perkins and Sarah Tozer and Alpine skier Justine Dyer sat with Kennedy in the base lodge for lunch with a view of the mountains.

They each opened one of the nearly 900-bag lunches provided by volunteers, and they shared stories as they ate.

Some of Kennedy's Orono team members have competed in Special Olympics for at least 16 years, coach Betsy Dyer said, also the mother of Justine Dyer.

Dyer has skied with her family since she was 2 1/2 years old. She is a good skier, her team members agreed unanimously.

Mike Lawler of Hamden has been coached for six years, and Mark Duhamel of New Gloucester and Rock Libby of Hartford have volunteered for 24 years.

Fourteen volunteers from the Maine Handicapped Skiing program in Newry came to coach the sit-skiers.

“The Special Olympics people really needed a hand, so we help out and lend some of the specialized equipment,” Duhamel said.

At noon, thunderous applause and cheers greeted teams from across the state. Game wardens, wearing their red wool jackets, stood at attention as athletes gathered at the Sugarloaf base lodge.

Ricky Davis of Waterville, an 11-year veteran of the games, sat in his wheelchair, enjoying the festivities from the sunny entryway of the lodge. He and his coach Vance Briggs had participated in the sit-ski competition, and Ricky was ready to relax. He had plans for the evening, though.

“I’m going to the parade, and then there’s a dance,” he said, smiling broadly.

In all more than 500 athletes from around Maine, ages 8 to 80, were expected to participate in the three-day event at Sugarloaf. The games will wrap up Tuesday with closing ceremonies at the base lodge at noon.

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Comments

SCOTT THISTLE's picture
staff

Awesome event every year

This is an awesome event for the athletes and volunteers every year. Congrats to all!

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