Special Olympics recently hosted their Southeast Winter Games featuring competition in downhill alpine skiing and snowboarding. All four athletes competing for Buncombe County Special Olympics were presented medals in their respective divisions at Appalachian Ski Mountain near Boone.
“We’re very proud of our athletes – all of whom embody the spirt of Special Olympics,” said Karla Furnari of Buncombe County Recreation Services, who is also a Buncombe County Special Olympics coach and Local Coordinator. “Not only did they get to show off how hard they’ve worked, but each had fun and was able to share in the experience with family, friends, and other athletes from across the state.
Local athletes learned alpine skills prior to the Winter Games from Special Olympics coaches who are also professional ski and snowboard instructors at Cataloochee Ski Area. At the Winter Games, athletes were placed into events based on skill assessments and assigned one of five levels: black (advanced terrain), blue (intermediate terrain), green (novice terrain), and yellow (beginner/slight slope). These levels were further divided based on ability, age, and gender.
Stephen Foster received a gold medal for skiing in Black Division 1, making him the fastest man in the fastest division on the mountain. Tyler Bennette also received a gold medal for snowboarding in Division 2. Rico Griffin and Shianne Harlan both received bronze medals for skiing in Black Division 2 and Green Division 3, respectively.
Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy in 1968 to celebrate changing attitudes about the talents of people with intellectual disabilities. Buncombe County Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for youth and adults. Sports include alpine skiing and snowboarding, aquatics, athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, cheerleading, gymnastics, powerlifting, and soccer. The organization also offers the Adaptive Athlete Program in a partnership with South Slope CrossFit and Buncombe County Recreation Services.
Buncombe County Special Olympics is made possible through funding from donors and support from Buncombe County Government. To donate or volunteer, visit buncombecountyspecialolympics.org.