By Katy Savage
A local student was selected to light the torch and read the athlete’s oath at the Winter Games at Pico Mountain, Sunday, March 17.
Jack Rasmussen, 16, of Killington, will light the torch and read the three-sentence oath in front of hundreds of competitors and volunteers, pledging to do his best.
“This is a huge, huge honor for him,” his mother, Sarah Rasmussen said.
Jack was diagnosed with Dup15q syndrome at 13 months old. The developmental disability affects his growth and motor skills and causes epilepsy and cognitive impairments, Sarah said, but Jack doesn’t let that stop him.
Jack is part of the alpine ski team at Woodstock Union High School. He has competed in alpine ski events or snowshoe events in the Special Olympics for 10 years.
Some years Jack wins the gold medal, some years he doesn’t. Sometimes Jack misses a gate and comes in dead last, Sarah said, but, it doesn’t matter. “He’s happy doing it,” she said.
About 200 athletes from around the state will compete in the Winter Games this year. The games were previously held at Suicide Six in Woodstock before they moved to Pico last year.
“We just outgrew (Suicide Six),” said Special Olympics organizer Kaila Krouse.
Krouse asked Jack to read the oath, knowing he was local and competed on the former Pico ski team. Before the games on Sunday, a member of the Special Olympics team will ski down the trail Exhibition. Jack will get handed the torch with a law enforcement officer. He will be escorted to light the flame before stepping over to the microphone to lead the athlete’s oath.
Jack practices skiing at Pico every Sunday. His coach and high school aid, Jack Halloway, helps Jack ski among the top skiers in the area, including those from Killington Mountain School, which has helped him improve.
“It allowed Jack the ability to race at this elite level,” Sarah said.
Jack’s father, Eric Rasmussen, was asked to read the coach’s oath at the games last year.
“It’s really, really special,” Eric said. “We’ve been doing this for a long time.”
Sarah said Jack is looking forward to lighting the torch. His only concern?
“I don’t want to catch on fire,” Jack told her.
“Jack is pretty easy going,” Sarah said, laughing. “Once I assured him that would not be a problem, he was fine with doing that.”
Jack may not know that brown snow is not something to ski on and he may not be able to tell if someone is coming up behind him on skis. “When we’re skiing with him we’re trying to be aware of our surroundings and his,” Eric said, but Jack can hold his own in the woods and over bumps.
Jack looks up to his older brother, Kyle, a freestyle skier. “He just wants to be like everybody else,” Eric said.