First time the Special Olympics USA training camp has been held in Vermont
By Evan Johnson
It’s not every day that you get to meet an Olympic medalist, but on Tuesday, Dec. 13, that’s what happened to 20-year-old Jeremy Beckham. While at a training camp at Killington Resort for the upcoming 2017 Special Olympic games in March in Austria, Beckham got to meet Olympic medalist Ross Powers, who offered a few words of wisdom to him and a group of his teammates.
“I want to wish you all the best of luck over there,” Powers said to three snowboarders.
The moment was part of an event organized during the week-long training camp that also featured a Burton Riglet park for young snowboarders ages 3-8.
While alpine and cross-country skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers practiced on the slopes of Killington, the Spartan Arena at Castleton University hosted speed-skaters, figure skating and floor hockey.
The 150 athletes came from across the country and stayed Monday through Thursday to practice their sports before they head overseas in March.
Jeremy Beckham came from Vancouver, Wash. “There are no words for how happy I am to be here with everyone,” Beckham said.
Killington, which hosted the Audi FIS World Cup in November, was a serious change in venue for some of the athletes, many of whom came from smaller hills.
Latrice Pringle, 31, first started as a skier in Boone, N.C. before transitioning to snowboarding. “There’s a lot more snow and the mountains are bigger,” she said.
“The snow’s been great so far,” said 18-year-old snowboarder Chris Purdue, who grew up skateboarding and then snowboarding around hills in the midwest. “I had a few icy turns, but there’s lots of powder too.”
Lisa DeNatalie, president and CEO of Special Olympics Vermont, said holding the training at Castleton and Killington allowed the athletes to train in close proximity with each other. Following the snowfall early in the week, there was no shortage of terrain, either. “It’s a great winter wonderland and fortunately it showed its true colors this past week,” she said.
While the second-ever Special Olympics International Winter Games were held at Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont in 1981, this is the first time the Special Olympics USA training camp has been held in the state.
Special Olympics USA is comprised of 150 athletes, 40 coaches and approximately 20 delegation members who support team operations, for a total delegation of 210. The delegation also includes three Vermonters and Special Olympics Unified Sports teams, where people with and without intellectual disabilities compete together, as teammates. Team members will compete at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in seven sports: alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, snowboarding, snowshoeing and speed-skating. For some, it will be their first experience flying.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Chris Purdue. “And it’s a really big honor.”
Photo by Evan Johnson
Snowboarders, including Olympic medalist Ross Powers and members of the Special Olympic USA team pose for a picture at Killington Resort on Tuesday, Dec. 13. The 150-member team practiced at the resort this week, the first time Killington has hosted the training.