The Athletic and Social event of the season for me and a number of my friends occurred on the weekend of Feb. 28 & Mar. 1. Special Olympics Connecticut held their 2015 Winter Games at multiple venues across the state, with competitions in Cross Country and Alpine Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, Figure and Speed Skating, and Floor Hockey. The weekend was filled with challenging and rewarding competition, as well as the opportunity for participants to spend time with old friends and make new ones. Many stayed over at hotels near the competition with their teams and coaches. And Saturday night’s Dinner and Dance was a blowout celebration for all!
The Oxford Special Olympics (OSO) local program fielded one of the largest teams in the state, competing in Alpine Skiing, Snowshoeing, and Cross Country Skiing. Based in Oxford, OSO serves a number of surrounding towns, with athletes coming from Seymour, Ansonia, Derby, Orange, New Haven, Woodbridge, Bethany, Beacon Falls, Southbury, Newtown, and more. 24 Alpine (downhill) skiers took the slopes at Ski Sundown in New Hartford. They did OSO proud in events such as the Giant Slalom and Super G (Advanced, Intermediate and Novice) to the Super Glide. We had several novices in the group who did amazingly well for their first season on skis, a testament to the fortitude and courage of the athletes as well as their fabulous coaches. The OSO Alpine Ski Team practiced Sunday evenings in January and February at Powder Ridge Mountain.
Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing competitions were held on the grounds of Eversource (formerly CL&P) in Simsbury, a long time supporter of SOCT. OSO Snowshoers included 19 Athletes and 6 Unified Partners, ages 12 to 55. Some individual athletes competed in 25M and 50M Walks, while others tore up the tundra in 25M, 50M, and 100M Races. Three teams competed in 4x25M and 4x50M Relays, and three Unified Teams raced in 4×100 Relays. (Have you ever tried to run in snowshoes? It’s a challenge to run fast and stay on your feet! I witnessed three instances of an Oxford athlete falling during a race, but getting right up and completing their run to still medal.)
Cross Country Skiing presents its own challenges in coordination and stamina. Four OSO athletes competed in races ranging from 50M to 250M, and then combined with two partners for a 4x100M Unified Relay. The OSO Snowshoe and Cross Country program has been practicing faithfully since the beginning of the year on Friday evenings on the grounds of Oxford Center School. This season provided plenty of snow, but also particularly frigid temperatures, sometimes in the single digits during practice.
Oxford Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for all people with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympic athletes and the community. Oxford Special Olympics is an accredited local chapter of CT Special Olympics, which is a non-profit organization authorized and accredited by Special Olympics International for the benefit of citizens with intellectual disabilities.