About 10 local athletes won’t be competing in the Washington Special Olympics Winter Games this year due to the cancellation of Nordic ski events. The events were to be held at the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club ski tracks, but the club was forced to close all its courses in early February due to lack of snow. Local Special Olympics coordinator Caryl Morrell said the cancellation will leave about 50 athletes statewide without an event this year. Lack of snow also canceled skiing events during the 2005 Special Olympics.
Alpine skiing and snowboard events will go on as scheduled at Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort from Friday through Sunday. All skating events will take place at Town Toyota Center on Saturday. Basketball events will be held at several local schools Friday through Sunday. The Special Olympics opening ceremony is at 8 p.m. Friday at the Town Toyota Center.
Nearly 1,500 athletes and partners are expected to compete in this year’s Olympics. The events will also bring about 300 coaches, 700 volunteers and 2,500 family members and friends to Wenatchee.
WENATCHEE — One day, Danny George and Mason McRae want to be Olympians like some of their bigger friends. Like basketball player Duane Gaddis, or ice skaters Chris Amerson and Michael Elliott.
Danny and Mason, both 9, will be on the sidelines this year when the Washington State Winter Special Olympics are held this weekend. They’ve been training with some of the older athletes who will compete Saturday and Sunday, but aren’t quite ready for competition themselves. Both of the Wenatchee boys have Down syndrome.
“You have to be able to leave the wall if you want to race,” Mason’s mother, Alicia, said with a laugh during a recent interview. Mason has been taking ice skating lessons for three years, wanting to be on the ice with his sister, Stacia, 17, who is a figure skater and not disabled. But it’s still very scary for Mason to get out in the center of the ice rink without holding on to somebody.
Danny has also been working hard to be part of the local Special Olympics team. He hopes to play basketball with the bigger athletes, like Duane Gaddis, who shoots baskets from a wheelchair. Gaddis is the only local basketball player who advanced to the state Olympics this year. Danny has also practiced with soccer and track teams.
“Danny goes to the practices, but he’s the littlest guy out there. They love it when Danny is out there and he loves it because they all embrace him,” said his mother, Erin George.
“Danny loves sports and meeting new people. He’s a pretty athletic little guy,” said his father, Todd. “It will be exciting for him to compete at a level that’s comparable to his ability.”
Both Danny and Mason will participate in Thursday’s Young Athletes Exhibition at Washington Elementary School in Wenatchee. They’ll be at Friday evening’s Special Olympics Winter Games opening festivities and they’ll be watching some of their older pals compete Saturday and Sunday.
“We’ve been working on Mason. He’s going to be one of our skaters soon,” said Ann Sprague, assistant coach for the Wenatchee Special Olympics skate team, the Wenatchee Icebergs. The team recently changed its name from the Flaming Red Apples.
Sprague, who assists lead instructor Louise Kapeikis, said the team is down in numbers and very interested in getting new skaters.
“We’re way down. We only have four skaters this year. On the other hand, we have a great teacher-to-student ratio,” she said with a laugh. The team has had six or seven skaters or more some years.
Chris Amerson, 31, of Leavenworth, has skated on the race team the past three years and will add a figure skating routine to music this year. Michael Elliott, 31, of Wenatchee, has been skating competitively for several years and this is Jack Anderson’s third year, Sprague said. Anderson is 27 and from Wenatchee.
New to the team this year is Grace Van Well, 11, of Wenatchee. Grace has been whizzing around the Town Toyota ice rink in practice since Sprague found her a skate assist she can use in the races this weekend. It’s like a walker for the ice.
“She wouldn’t let go of the wall before. She’s really doing great,” said Pete Van Well, Grace’s dad. Grace has autism, he said, and prefers to do things on her own. She was on the Special Olympics swim team last summer after teaching herself how to swim. She also learned how to ride a horse on her own, he said.
“She was so excited last week when they brought that (the skate assist) out and she didn’t have to hold anyone’s hand or hold on to the wall,” said her mother, Carmen.
Rick Steigmeyer: 664-7151