Friday, February 29, 2008

Sun Valley proves special

Athletes, volunteers convene for prelude to 2009 World Games


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

Vaclav Kalous, 29, from the Czech Republic, gives a final push toward the finish line in the Division 1, 1-kilometer race Wednesday in Sun Valley. Cross-country and snowshoe events were held over two days at Sun Valley Resort. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Special Olympics Invitational Winter Games held its closing ceremony last night in Boise at Boise State University's Bronco Gym, after four days of competition and smiles.

Snow-sport events were held in Sun Valley, Boise and Tamarack, near McCall. On Wednesday, the snowshoe and cross-country competitions were completed in Sun Valley under sunny skies and moderate temperatures. Lively music blasted from speakers at both the snowshoe and cross-country events, creating a party atmosphere. Dozens of Wood River Valley residents in volunteer garb swarmed Sun Valley's snow-covered golf course.

"This was supposed to be in Tamarack but we pulled it together at the last minute," volunteer and Ketchum resident Thad Farnham said. "It's due to Sun Valley providing the spectacular venue."

Numerous Wood River Valley students took part in activities. The fourth- and fifth-grade classes from Woodside Elementary School in Hailey came to cheer on athletes, by running along the course ringing cowbells and yelling words of encouragement.

Students from The Community School in Sun Valley also made a vital contribution. They were given a choice of volunteering for the Special Olympics Winter Invitational Games in Sun Valley or going on an annual backcountry trip. Ten chose to volunteer, and a few were seen scooting around pole-less on skate skies helping out where needed.

The Chinese delegation looked speedy in tight-fitting, Speedo-like garb and grouped outside their tent watching the 3-kilometer cross-country event. The Austrian delegation showed a sense of humor in headgear. Their black ski hats had red, detachable horns that lent the group a genuine joviality while waiting on the sidelines.

Feel-good moments were in abundance.

There were also teams in Idaho from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Romania, Sweden, Kuwait, Lebanon, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington state.

The Idaho delegation was by far the largest of the delegations. For some it was a family affair. The Kiresbom family had two sons—Steven, 20, and Trevor, 19—competing. As teammates on the team from Coeur d'Alene, they finished first in the 4x100 snowshoeing relay.

The Cole family brought skier Kelly, 13, and snowboarder Claude, 15. And Ana, 13, and Mirabel Dominguez, 12, played together on the Minico Spuds floor-hockey team.

The Wood River Valley's own Grant Swindle, 20, won his Alpine Novice Super G event. The oldest competitor was Bobby Leavitt, 71, who raced in cross-country skiing.

The youngest two competitors were Alexandria Boorman, 9, a floor-hockey player, and Victoria J. Otterstrom, also 9, who competed in the snowshoe races in Sun Valley.

On Thursday, the floor-hockey finals were held in Boise. The Caldwell Wildcats ultimately beat the Rigby Wranglers.

The invitational games are a forerunner to the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games, which could draw as many as 3,000 competitors from 85 counties, organizers said, and bring 10,000 relatives, coaches, supporters and volunteers to Idaho.

The top finishers are now eligible to represent Idaho at the World Winter Games in Boise. With 10 spots to fill, it means that Idaho will be represented by one male and one female in each of the five winter sports sponsored in Idaho—alpine skiing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding. Floor-hockey players will be part of the national team.




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