A warm rain may have drenched the snow made for Special Olympics Connecticut’s 30th Winter Games Saturday, but it did not dampen the spirits of athletes who had waited all year to compete.
“Nobody, no matter who they are, walks around and doesn’t feel good about this experience," said Mitch Gross, Connecticut Light & Power spokesman, who was volunteering.
Events were held at four locations: snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at the Connecticut Light & Power building in Simsbury, figure skating and speed skating at the International Skating Center of Connecticut in Simsbury and alpine skiing and snowboarding at Ski Sundown in New Hartford. Unified and traditional floor hockey were held in East Hartford.
Due to the rain, some events were canceled and others pushed later into the day but the athletes made the best of it, dancing, playing games and enjoying the time until the events started.
“Part of it is just being together, with our own team and teams from surrounding states. They do look forward to it all year,” said Charles Anthony Ferrari, coach of the Simsbury Special Olympics team, which draws athletes from all over the Farmington Valley.
The team’s 21 athletes range in age from Ethan, 8, to Dan Skinner, now 24. Skinner is among several who have been with the team for years.
The Simsbury-based team got its start with a handful of dedicated parents and just a few athletes in 2004. The majority of those parents were on the course Saturday to help with gear and encouraging words for their athletes.
After competing herself in swimming for 17 years, Selena Derungs is now an athlete coach for the team.
Beth Lambert said Derungs’ impact on the athletes, including her son, has been profound.
“She’s taken Eric under her wing and brought him along so far,” Lambert said.
She drives Eric down from Barkhamsted to participate but said it’s worth it.
“This has been a wonderful group. I’m so glad we found them.”
Simsbury Special Olympics was competing only in snowshoeing this year and some athletes had only raced on snow a few times. Instead the team had spent January and February at Stratton Brook, practicing on sand.
“Some of the athletes don’t like to do track and field events but you put snowshoes on them and the love to run,” Ferrari said.
The games continue today with final competitions and award ceremonies in all sports. For a schedule of events or more information about Special Olympics, click here.