Md. Special Olympics competitors ski and shoe for gold and fun
Paul Howard of Carroll County celebrates after crossing the finish line in the alpine skiing event during the 2013 Special Olympics Maryland Winter Games at Whitetail Resort Monday. (Colleen McGrath / Staff Photographer / February 25, 2013)
“I just liked winning,” said Reynolds, a 20-year-old from Cumberland, Md. “I’ve worked out with a lifting coach at home, and we ski every Thursday night.”
Reynolds was scheduled to compete in the alpine skiing event during the 28th Special Olympics Maryland 2013 Winter Games. In South Korea, he won the gold medal for the Intermediate Downhill Giant Slalom.
Around 350 people are participating in the games this year, said Jason Schriml, vice president of communications for Maryland Special Olympics.
The two-day event began with an opening ceremony Monday at noon, emceed by participants Michael Heup of Davidsonville, Md., and Tammy Holigaugh of Westminster, Md. Participant Jill Durbin, who is representing Montgomery County and who competed in the World Winter Special Olympics, and Anne Arundel County Police Department Capt. Frank Tewey led the torch-lighting ceremony.
“It’s a real milestone for us to have athletes running really most of the ceremony,” Schriml said. “Athletes are not only critical to what we do because we’re a sports organization, but they’re key to the grassroots of what we do.”
Along with alpine skiing, there are also snowshoeing games, in which five people from Washington County have been scheduled to participate.
Patrick Speaker, 25, of Williamsport, is competing for the second time.
“I’m just looking to have fun and be the best that I can,” he said.
Brittaney Robertson, 13, of Hagerstown, added that she was also looking forward to “just having fun” but also thinks she has a legitimate shot at winning a medal.
“I’m pretty fast,” she said.
The alpine skiing games are divided into advanced, intermediate, and beginner levels, Schriml said. Snowshoeing events are contested based on the distance: 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, and 800 meters.
Around 200 volunteers are involved and 100 coaches work with the athletes for the events, according to an emailed press release from Special Olympics Maryland.
Reynolds’ mother, Pam, is working as a volunteer at this year’s games, but will be with the snowshoers.
“I’m excited about actually being part of the event and very much looking forward to seeing Jake come down the mountain,” she said.
Pam Reynolds, 58, also described what it was like the day her son came home from the South Korea games and received support from the Cumberland area.
“When he came back they had Jake Reynolds Day, gave him a key to the city, and really made a big deal out of it,” she said. “If you have a child without a disability, you’re not going to have a day like that too often.”
Reynolds’ coach, Susan Crump, worked with him and other athletes for the Maryland Special Olympics.
“It’s very rewarding to be able to show them some things and them be able to grasp it, and then to take it onto the slopes and do it,” she said. “Most of the athletes are very kind and warm-hearted, they want to learn, and they want to do the best they can.”
The games conclude Tuesday.