|1/7/2013 6:36:00 AM|
Special Olympians flock to Bureau County Fairgrounds
|Becky Nelson of Princeton, (left) who raced with the Gateway Services team, gets a slight lead on a competitor during a 100-meter snowshoe heat on Saturday at the Starved Rock Area Special Olympics District Winter Games.|
NewsTribune photo/Goldie Currie
|Athlete Ashton Anderson of Warren County lights the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony of the Starved Rick Area Special Olympics District Winter Games on Saturday at the Bureau County Fairgrounds. |
NewsTribune photos/Goldie Currie
PRINCETON — A chilly afternoon with little snow on the ground Saturday didn’t stop competition during the Starved Rock Area Special Olympics District Winter Games at the Bureau County Fairgrounds in Princeton.
About 90 snowshoe athletes from 15 agencies around the northern part of Illinois filed in for the chance at a medal and a spot at the state championship games.
The event was kicked off with an opening ceremony, where a torch was passed around to each agency before it stopped at Ashton Anderson of Warren County, who then lit the Olympic flame. An oath was said by Nathan Warren of Princeton, who has been selected to compete on the U.S.A. team at the Special Olympics World Games later this month in South Korea.
The snowshoe races immediately followed the opening ceremony. Cross country skiing was canceled due to lack of snow.
Area director Cheryl DePaepe was on the sidelines of the races on Saturday cheering on athletes as they crossed over the finish line. She said having the athletes participate in the games gives them an opportunity to showcase their skills.
“It’s an accomplishment for them. They are competing just like their brothers and sisters are competing in sports and getting recognition for what they can do,” she said.
Each athlete is expected to begin training for the games six weeks in advance. DePaepe said there is no snow to train in during this time, but the athletes still are able to do conditioning exercises, which gets them into shape for the competition.
Among the athletes was Becky Nelson of Princeton who competed on the Gateway Services team. Nelson has been a snowshoe competitor in the games for five years. While she took a short break between her 100-meter race and 50-meter race on Saturday, she was feeling tired, but was in high spirits.
“Racing makes me happy,” she said. “I just wanted to do it. I had seen my friend do it once and I wanted to try it.”
Nelson loves two parts about racing. The first is “running fast to the finish line” and the second is “seeing everyone win their medals.” She took first place in her 100-meter heat and collected a gold medal, which will accompany the many other medals she has won during previous competitions.
Several volunteers cooperated Saturday to run the games. Crews performed various tasks, including maintaining the souvenir table, preparing the lunch food, keeping scores and seeking any medical attention needed.
Tracy Hammitt and her family of Princeton were among the volunteers. She said her family became involved two or three years ago through friends who also volunteered at the games.
“It’s awesome and fantastic. Seeing their faces is just amazing. They are wonderful, wonderful athletes and they love it,” she said. “They give it their all and have a great time. It’s so rewarding and fulfilling and so exciting to be a part of it.”
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