Alpine Skiers Prepare for Special Olympics Winter Games
Winter sports are well underway, and for one group of skiers in Montgomery County, it’s time to buckle down and prepare for the biggest competition of the year.
Members of the Special Olympics of Montgomery County Alpine Ski team have been practicing at Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg since early November, gearing up for the State qualifying competition for the annual Special Olympics Winter Games on Feb. 24 and 25 at Ski Whitetail in Pennsylvania.
“It’s terrific watching these athletes compete at the Winter Games,” said Michael Maryn, head coach of the Special Olympics Montgomery County Alpine Skiing program. “They are competitive and driven to win gold but they also support one another and have a great time. It is truly inspirational.”
Maryn became involved in the program when his 15-year-old daughter Sarah joined the team. Sarah is autistic and had been skiing with the family for more than 10 years.
“I thought it was a great way to get her out of the house and exercising in fresh air,” Maryn said. “Sarah has always enjoyed skiing and its a great family activity. It was only natural for me to volunteer as an assistant coach when Sarah started skiing with Special Olympics because she needed a lot of personal attention then.”
“Now that I am head coach, she spends most of her time with the other advance skiers and I am able to devote more time to some of our less proficient athletes,” he said.
The program is open to anyone age eight or older with an intellectual or cognitive disability. There is no age limit to who can join. The team currently has several skiers in their 40’s.
Every fall the team starts practicing “dry land training” with the cross-country and snow shoeing teams before moving to the slopes.
“Our dry land practices involve conditioning and stretching exercises designed to core body and leg strength and other exercises to help the athletes with balance,” Maryn said. “In January we turn our attention to the mountains and start our on-snow practices.”
The team practices at Ski Liberty with the State qualifying event held at Ski Whitetail.
“The staff at Ski Liberty is wonderful,” Maryn said. “We usually start our practices with a little warm up skiing just to loosen before taking a one hour lesson with the ski instructors at Ski Liberty. After the lesson our coaching staff practices the skills we learned during the lessons with our athletes.”
To find more information about the Special Olympics of Montgomery County and the Alpine Skiing program, visit their website here.