RUMFORD —  More than 100 Special Olympics Maine athletes from 11 Western Maine teams participated in the Oxford County Special Olympics Winter Games training day at Black Mountain Ski Resort on Friday.

They competed in snowshoe, and Alpine and Nordic skiing at the Rumford ski hill. The speedskating competition took place at the Hosmer Field ice skating rink, also in Rumford.

The event is a precursor to the 2014 Special Olympics Maine State Winter Games on Jan. 26-28 at Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Carrabassett Valley.

For first-time snowshoe racer Carol Gaudin of Mexico and the Hope Association team, the training was all about having fun and everyone winning.

Gaudin and 109 athletes walked in a parade from the lodge to the snowshoe competition area where opening ceremonies were held. She stopped in front of torch bearer Sean Mosher of Oxford and filmed him, giving him a thumbs-up signal.

“I want to wish everybody good luck,” Gaudin, 50, said.

“We’re all going to win today, right?” she said to the athletes.

After singing the national anthem, athlete John Hall of Team Momentum offered words of encouragement.

“Let’s do our best, don’t fall, keep going and I hope we do our best…Let’s go; let’s do it,” Hall said.

He and Rumford police Sgt. Doug Maifeld led the athletes in a rousing rendition of the Special Olympics motto and high-fived each other before training got under way.

Teams included Mountain Valley Middle School and High School, Dirigo High School, Hope Association, Momentum, Meroby Elementary School, Hartford-Sumner Elementary School, Mosher Independent, Emma’s Happy Rebels, The Progress Center and Medical Care Development of Norway.

Team Momentum coach and county co-area manager Rhonda Lausier of Casco officiated the snowshoe races. Athletes competed in several heats for 20 and 50 meters.

Maifeld and Rumford police Sgt. Tracey Higley encouraged athletes and helped those who had difficulties get up and finish their races.

In one 50-meter race, Courtney Porter of Andover and MVHS exuberantly crossed the finish line with a big grin and yelled, “Awesome!”

Catching her breath on the sideline, she considered another run, having already done several.

“I got second place in the 50,” she said. “All my friends are saying, ‘Do it again,’ but I’m thinking about it.”

At the Nordic track, Gabriella Hewes and Jaliyah Hershkowitz, both of Rumford, slowly glided down the ski grooves. They said they were beginners and learning how to ski cross-country.

“I fell a few times,” Hewes said, “but it was fun.”

After a few hours of practice, with temperatures in the low- to mid-30s, the athletes returned to the lodge for lunch and an awards ceremony.

Sitting with her Hope Association teammates, Gaudin was still pumped up.

“We did snowshoeing together and everybody won, everybody,” she said, fists clenched and thumbs up. “I’m so proud of everybody.”

Everybody winning is what she enjoys about Special Olympics, she said.

“I like to see all the participants win, because you know what? We all deserve that,” Gaudin said. “We all deserve it. It’s very important and it makes everybody feel great and it should be.”

tkark[email protected]


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