Special Olympics holds winter games

Published: Feb. 20, 2021 at 6:40 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Special Olympics Wisconsin is back to live competition for their first time since September. The main events at Nine Mile Recreation Area and Granite Peak Ski Resort were skiing and snowshoe races.

The events are scaled back due to covid-19, but the athletes are no less enthusiastic.

“It feels just nice enough to get out and enjoy the great outdoors and try to win a couple medals,” said snowshoe racer Aaron Brinkman.

Special Olympics Athletic Director Nicole Christensen agreed. “So we have slowly gotten back into the field of play. A lot of our teams have been in small group practices with groups of about 10 people or so. And thankfully with cases going down across the state we have been able to come out here today and do an outdoor competition,” she said.

Organizers from the Special Olympics had to contend with all of the added precautions of group gatherings right now.

“We’re screening everybody who’s coming in, having people wear masks, trying to encourage social distancing, so trying to do the best of both worlds offering some in-person competition and trying to be safe in the community and be responsible to the community we’re in,” said Senior Director of Sports Jason Blank.

The local races only drew about 30 athletes, compared to their usual 150 to 200, but there was an added component to allow for more participants.

“We also are offering an in-practice option so athletes can be able to compete in their local communities and we can use their times and place them from that,” Blank said.

Skier Kolin Schmitz competed with his sister Karcyn on what’s called a unified team. For this, a Special Olympics athlete is teamed up with someone from the wider community.

“So in this case the pairs would go down the race course separately and then their scores will be combined for placement and awards for the unified competition,” Christensen explained.

The idea is to widen the community. . .something the athletes encourage everyone to take part in.

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