Sugarloaf/USA Hosts Special Olympics
More than 500 athletes from more than 70 Maine communities will compete in: speed skating and figure skating, several Nordic events, three alpine events, downhill, slalom, and giant slalom; plus two snow shoe events and a sit-down ski competition. Demonstration sports will include snowshoeing, sit-down skiing and snowboarding.
Special Olympics started in 1968 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver saw a need for some type of sports program for people with developmental disabilities. Having a sister with mental retardation gave Eunice first hand knowledge of the lack of programs available. Soldiers Field was the site of the first Special Olympics games and included nearly 200 athletes from the USA and Canada. After a successful event, many states joined Eunice and held their own Special Olympics Track and Field event. Special Olympics is a year round athletic training and competition program offering Olympic style sports to people with mental retardation of all ages.
In 1970, the very first Winter Special Olympics was held on Kiwanis ski slope in Gorham, Maine. The athletes competed in tubing, downhill skiing, snowshoe races and cross country skiing. The competitions lasted one day and were held in hopes of showing the public that people with mental retardation could participate in sports and social events just like anyone else.
As a result of this successful day of competition, every state is able to provide winter sports. In addition 80 countries now offer a Winter Special Olympics. "It's an honor to host this wonderful event once again," states Steve Pierce, Games Director of the event. "Our entire community especially looks forward to welcoming the athletes at the traditional community supper on Sunday evening."
The games are kicked off with the uplifting Parade of Champions, followed by the Opening Ceremonies and lighting of the Olympic Torch. A torch light parade and fireworks are scheduled for Monday evening, followed by the Banquet of Champions and Victory Dance in the Base Lodge.
In addition to participating in the various competitions, athletes will have the opportunity to enjoy several fun activities including snowmobile, groomer and sleigh rides, as well as swimming at the Sugarloaf Sports and Fitness Club.