At these Games, they’re all champions
COPPER MOUNTAIN – Step by step, Justin Typer slid his cross-country skis along the tracks at the 50-meter race course at Copper Mountain. A big, toothy grin was spread across his face. He wobbled once and recovered, then continued step by step, as dozens of people cheered him on.
Four minutes later, he crossed the finish line.
Typer is one of hundreds of athletes, volunteers and family members participating in the annual Winter Special Olympics at the resort Sunday through Tuesday. The event is held to celebrate achievements of people with developmental disabilities. The Games also provide a place where people with various disabilities find acceptance, respect and belonging.
“It’s not the winning that’s important,” said Leslie Bjorgum, a coach. “It’s the chance to participate.”
Typer, of Buena Vista, agreed, answering ‘yes’ when asked if he had fun, if he’d done well and if he’d raced fast. It was the first Special Olympics games for the 8-year-old boy. He has autism, a disorder characterized by self-absorption, the inability to interact socially, repetitive behavior and language dysfunction.
“He doesn’t understand competition very well,” said his father, Jim. “But here, he’s learning that he can do it.”
Nick Schultz, 9, was scheduled to compete in the 100-, 300- and 500-meter cross-country races.
“I’m gonna win that gold medal if it’s the last thing I do,” said the Buena Vista youth. “As soon as I’m up, I’m going to go ‘tchewww,’ like a bullet.”
Other races at the resort include snowboarding, alpine skiing and showshoeing; figure and speed skating will be held at Dobson Ice Arena in Vail.
The Special Olympics were founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1963. The first Games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago and attracted more than 1,000 athletes. The Olympic oath, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,” is clearly seen in the faces of the athletes, their coaches, families and friends.
They may trip over their snowshoes, lose their balance or wander off course, but they are all winners in the eyes of their coaches. And while winning medals are important, participation matters more.
“It teaches them a sense of accomplishment,” said Linda Typer. “It helps him with independence. He needs that. It helps him in social aspects. And he has fun.”
Coaches, volunteers and family members benefit from the Games, as well.
“It brings me happiness,” said Ann Talbot, a coach and the mother of an athlete. “Being able to get these guys out is wonderful. They get to be out with friends, they get to do what they want to do. In their daily lives, they don’t have a lot of choices; this they choose to do. It’s rewarding.”
“It’s something they can do,” said Coleen McGeehan, another coach from Buena Vista. “They feel good about it. It’s an exciting time for them.”Step by step, Justin Typer slid his cross-country skis along the tracks at the 50-meter race course at Copper Mountain. A big, toothy grin was spread across his face. He wobbled once and recovered, then continued step by step, as dozens of people cheered him on.
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