Special Olympics Iowa begins Winter Games with the cooperation of Mother Nature

(KTUU)
Published: Jan. 14, 2019 at 7:50 PM CST
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Athletes from across the state are gathering in Dubuque to compete in the

They'll take on skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating, all events that rely on cold conditions and some help from Mother Nature.

One event that relies solely on Mother Nature's will is snowshoeing.

On Monday, athlete Laura Smith put on her shoes to compete at Camp Albrecht Acres.

Before her time trial, she declared, "I'm not one of the fast ones." Still, she went to the starting line to give it her best shot. For her, the light layer of snow on the ground was almost the perfect amount.

"Pretty good," she said. "Better than grass shoeing."

According to competitors and organizers, that can get messy.

"The situation then is leaves getting stuck in the shoes, and sometimes if it has been snowing, or there's rain, it will get muddy, and then their shoes can get stuck in the mud. So we just really want snow," Special Olympics Iowa marketing and communication director Karen Whitman explained.

Luckily, snowshoeing is the only event that relies on natural snow. Alpine and cross country skiing events are held at Sundown Mountain, which provides man-made snow.

"We’ve been doing it there for 33 years so we’ve gotten it down to a science there. They know exactly what we need, we know exactly what they’re willing to offer us with everything that we do," Whitman said. "It’s a great partnership with Sundown and has been for many years.”

Skiier Mack Torres said he looks forward to taking on the slopes there each year.

He said he likes, "Coming to have fun and skiing."

The Winter Games also includes ice skating, which is held at the Mystique Community Ice Center.

Whitman said this year's games is especially important because gold medalists will have a chance to qualify for the World Games, which will be in Sweden in 2021.

While competitors completed time trials and clinics on Monday, they'll complete the main events on Tuesday. Medals will be given out at an awards ceremony that evening.