Rita Mae Grant is pretty excited about the upcoming 2013 Special Olympics Winter Games which will be held in Valley City on Friday and Saturday.
After all, she’s been competing for 41 years and even competed in the Special Olympic World Games in Nagano, Japan in 2001. She knows exactly what kind of excitement is coming for her and her snowshoeing teammates.
The 12-member Valley City Special Olympic Snowshoeing Team have practiced together twice now, and they like their chances of winning. But even if they don’t win, they want to have fun according to Cassie Colwell, Marshall Pederson, Kelly Klein, and Grant, all who will be competing for Valley City this year.
Of the four, Pederson, of Valley City, is the only one who has never competed in the snowshoe event, but he’s more excited than nervous.
Klein, of Eckelson, was named the North Dakota Female Athlete of the Year and gets to say the Special Olympics Oath at all state events this year. She also wants to win.
Special Olympics is a year-round sports training and athletic competition program that features a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intelligence disabilities that gives them opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community, according to the organization’s website.
According to local Special Olympic coach Cindy Schopper, of the Open Door Center, Special Olympics has gone way beyond being just a sports organization. It advocates and provides support to individuals in nutrition, physical fitness, and helps individuals with intellectual disabilities become part of the community and a sports organizations.
Valley City Special Olympic athletes range in age from 10 to 74, according to Schopper. Participants have a wide range of physical and intellectual disabilities and competition criteria is based on gender, age and ability.
In her more than 29 years as a coach,”I’ve seen some absolutely awe-inspiring performances by athletes,” said Schopper.
Valley City provides year-round sports training to 95 to 100 individuals. In the late summer into fall participants can play soccer and bocce; later they get into bowling; then winter sports like snowshoeing, skiing and handball; then basketball, then into summer sports like track and field and power lifting.
Bowling is the most popular sport because it is a lifetime sport, said Schopper.
Other areas provide ice skating and swimming to their participants.
Valley City’s contribution to the Special Olympic Games, besides the venue, is its snowshoeing team,with competition ranging from 25 meters to 10 kilometers.
The team practices at the Metcalf Corn Maze.
Last year, the first year Valley City hosted the state games, the lack of snow the Special Olympic Winter Games were relegated to team handball competition only. This year is looking better.
This year’s Opening Ceremony will be held on Friday at 11a.m. at the Valley City Auditorium. At 1 p.m. team handball will begin at the Valley City Recreation Center. Alpine Skiing starts at 1:30 p.m. at Bear’s Den Mountain Ski Area at Fort Ransom. Also at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, snowshoeing and cross country skiing will be held at Metcalf Farms northeast of Valley City.
Also on Friday starting at 7:30 is a dance at the City Auditorium.
On Saturday at 8:30 a.m., handball will resume at the Rec.
Colwell, of Hope, thinks the sensation of running on snowshoes is weird. And though she would like to win her event, she’s also in it for the fun. She is really excited about going to the dance on Friday night, though.