Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Special Olympians to compete at Dollar

Regional competition on Valentine’s Day

Express Staff Writer

Ready for action, Special Olympians stop for a break on Dollar Mountain. From left to right are Thomas Moell, Grant Swindle, Kyle Wright (volunteer instructor) and Nathan Lago. Courtesy photo

    Eight-year old Diesel Ward was practicing turns on Dollar Mountain on Tuesday in preparation for a big competition on Friday.
    The opportunity to practice with others was big deal for Ward, who is diagnosed with autism.
    “It’s great for him to collaborate with a team,” said his mother, Kory Ward, who lives south of Bellevue. “It helps him develop life skills and social skills. He is meeting new faces and making new friends.”
    On Friday, Diesel will compete in the Special Olympics slalom and giant slalom events. He will be one of 120 Special Olympians to compete in the Eastern Regional Idaho Winter Games.
    “It’s a great opportunity for these kids to be exposed to something bigger than them. It expands their worlds and opens new doors for them,” Ward said.
    “There is no school Friday for Blaine County students, so we encourage everyone to come out and root these athletes on,” said games director and Higher Ground board member Jeff Rust.    
     Alpine and snowboarding competitions will take place at Dollar Mountain. Nordic and snowshoeing events will take place at the Sun Valley Club and Nordic Center in Sun Valley.
    “The events on Dollar Mountain are on Quarter Dollar, so you don’t have to be a skier to see them,” said Rust, who was instrumental in bringing the regional competition to Sun Valley.
    Eighteen local alpine and two local Nordic skiers will compete on Friday, including Atkinson’s employee Jeff Smith, who won a gold medal at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in South Korea last year.
    The Wood River Valley became a designated Olympic and Paralympic training site last year.
    Higher Ground is the host program of the Special Olympics competition. Higher Ground is also known for supporting veterans’ rehabilitation programs in summer and winter.
    Sun Valley hosted the 2009 Winter Special Olympic Games, after a number of local families spearheaded an effort to bring the games to Idaho, said Idaho Special Olympics Director of Operations Dallas Leatham.
    The Eastern Regional Games moved to Sun Valley last year for the first time.
    “The competition moved to Sun Valley because support for the organization is so good there, and because Higher Ground spearheaded it,” Leatham said.
    Subway in Hailey is donating lunches for athletes and volunteers.
    “Sun Valley Co. is a huge advocate for what we are doing,” said Rust. “They have been spectacular in helping us bring the event here.”
    Sun Valley will play host on March 1 to the Idaho State Special Olympics completion, which is expected to draw more than 400 athletes.
Tony Evans:

Let the Games begin
Alpine & Snowboard:
Dollar Mountain, Elkhorn Road, Sun Valley.
10 a.m.-11.a.m.—Registration.
11 a.m.-11:15 a.m.—Opening ceremonies.
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.—Slalom race.
12:15 p.m.-1:15 p.m.—lunch.
1:15 p.m.-2:15 p.m.—giant slalom race.
2:30 p.m.-3 p.m.—Awards/closing ceremonies.
Nordic & Snowshoe:   
Sun Valley Club, Trail Creek Road.
10 a.m.-11.a.m.—Registration.
11 a.m.-11:15 a.m.—Opening ceremonies.
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.—XC and snowshoe races.
12:15 p.m.-1:15 p.m.—lunch.
1:15 p.m.-2:15 p.m.—XC and snowshoe races.
2:30 p.m.-3 p.m.—Awards/closing ceremonies.

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