Special Olympics celebrating 25 years

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CARRABASSETT VALLEY – 500 Special Olympics Maine athletes are spending the final days of January preparing for the 37th annual Special Olympics Maine winter games. Athletes, coaches, families and volunteers will meet on Sunday, Jan. 28, at Sugarloaf/USA and games will continue through Tuesday, Jan. 30.

It is the 25th anniversary of holding the games at Sugarloaf/USA. Maine is credited with holding the first Special Olympics Winter Games in the world. In 1970 a handful of athletes joined on a small hill in Gorham to show their skills in alpine and Nordic skiing.

The following year the games had grown enough to move to Saddleback Mountain and by 1982 saw the need to move again this time to Sugarloaf. The entire Carrabassett community participates by preparing all of the meals for the first night for all 500 athletes and their coaches.

Upon arrival, the athletes will settle in at the condos, then will head out for an evening of moonlight skating and cross country skiing, karaoke and a bonfire.

Competition will begin Monday morning. Athletes will compete in alpine and Nordic skiing, speed skating, snowshoeing and dual ski. Monday evening the athletes will attend a banquet of champions, a torchlight parade put on by Carrabassett Valley Academy, and a fireworks display before heading in for a victory dance.

Special Olympics is a year-round athletic training and competition program for persons with intellectual disabilities of all ages. In Maine there are more than 2,500 athletes who participate. For more information on the winter games or Special Olympics, call the state office at 879-0489 or visit www.specialolympicsmaine.org.

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