Steamboat athletes celebrate the joy Special Olympics brings to their lives
Members of the Special Olympics skiing and snowshoe teams waited inside Howelsen Hill Lodge on Wednesday, March 15, for a chance to join their teammates in a photo and to celebrate one who was not there.
“We had a mission this year,” coach Tommy Moore said. “We were skiing for Sue White. Everybody knew Sue. She was the matriarch of this team, and that was our mission that we set out for this season, and I think we represented her well.”
Moore also said this year was special for the athletes who competed in the program, and they dedicated their efforts to their former teammate who died in August 2022. White’s passion for skiing landed her in the spotlight after she earned the chance to compete in the Alpine skiing events at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, where Moore was her coach.
White was top-of-mind this year as a group of 16 athletes competed in the regional games in Glenwood Springs in February, and 13 athletes from that group went on to Copper Mountain for the Colorado State Winter Games this month, which included an athlete parade, cauldron lighting, torchlight parade and fireworks, in addition to the actual races
Earlier this month, the Alpine and snowshoe teams from Steamboat Springs traveled to Copper Mountain, where they competed at the Special Olympic Colorado Winter Games with other athletes from around the state.
Athlete Heidi Brumleve said her friend’s spirit reached well beyond the Colorado State Winter Games and could be felt this season during training and at the regional games at Argonaut Farms in Glenwood Springs, where Brumleve took gold in the 200- and 400-meter events and was a part of the team that won silver in the 4×100 relay.
Brumleve was unable to travel to Copper Mountain, but she was confident Sue White’s spirit was felt there as well.
“The Olympics is awesome,” Brumleve said of the programs. “I really enjoyed Sue White looking down on me and I really miss her.”
Moore said the enthusiasm and energy White brought to the sport fueled the athletes this winter, and that White’s memory made this year even more special for those who took park.
Moore, who has coached for 20 years, said the Alpine program met on Sundays at the Steamboat Resort about six times during the winter. He said the program partners with STARS and has become a fixture in Steamboat.
The Alpine ski team included Scott Bjorgum, who brought home gold in the intermediate giant slalom and slalom races, and silver in the super-G; Drew Boglioli, who earned gold in the advanced giant slalom, and silver in the super-G and slalom; Taryn Emerson, who earned silver in the novice slalom, giant slalom and super-G; Misty Garcia, who earned gold in the novice super-G and slalom, and silver in the giant slalom; Rhianna Gifford, who earned gold in the intermediate slalom and giant slalom, and silver in the super-G; Ian Horning, who earned gold in intermediate slalom and bronze in the slalom; Logan McLaughlin, who earned gold in the intermediate slalom and bronze in the giant slalom; Amy Pascetti, who earned gold in the novice super-G and intermediate giant slalom, and silver in the slalom; and Nevaeh Smith, who finished with gold in the novice slalom and giant slalom, and silver in the super-G. Matthew Troeger competed with the team at the regional games in Sunlight in snowboarding events, placing first in slalom and second in giant slalom, but did not make the trip to Copper Mountain.
“I love to ski like with my friends, and I love to do the gates,” said Horning, who was competing in his first Special Olympics. “It’s a blast being with all your friends and family members.”
Horning’s teammate Logan McLaughlin agreed.
“I love skiiing, and I love the Special Olympics,” said McLaughlin, who has been four times. “I love my teammates, I love (coach )Tommy and I love skiing.”
The snowshoe team entered its second year with four athletes competing, including Jeffery Dockstader, who earned second in the 100-meter race; Jamie Kaminski, who earned first in the 100 and 200; Donald Pearce, who earned bronze in the 200 and 400; and Jaimee Purcell-Sexton, who earned silver in the 100 and 200.
The four Steamboat snowshoers at the Colorado State Games combined efforts to place third in the 4×100 relay. Jeffery Turner, who took gold in the 200 and third in the 400, also could not travel to Copper Mountain for the Colorado State Games, though he was a part of the silver-medal winning relay team at the regional games.
The team was coached by Aimee Jenkins, Susan White and Sarah-Grace Jordan, who is an employee of Horizons Specialized Services.
“We have three rules — have fun, try hard and have fun. If you’re not having fun, we need to talk about it. If you’re not trying too hard, we’ll talk about it,” Jenkins said. “But we’re always going to have fun and try hard — and we’re definitely going to have fun.”
Coach White said being a part of the team does not necessarily mean the athlete has to take part in the Special Olympics, as that’s their choice.
“We started as the Horizons Adventure Club and we build from that,” Jenkins said. “Certain athletes choose to do Special Olympics from the Horizons Adventure Club, and this year we had six go to the regional and four at state.”
Both the Alpine and snowshoe programs run throughout the winter with athletes meeting for training and looking forward to the state games at the end of the year. In addition to the training, the programs include warmups, nutrition and other important lessons for the athletes.
But at the end of the day, this program is about more than the sports.
“This is way more than skiing,” Moore said. “This is beyond the snow — it’s just timeless friendships, the camaraderie between each of the athletes … State has always been one of the biggest events that these guys all look forward to, and most of these athletes from across the state don’t see each other for an entire year until we get together at state.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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