I'm so glad that Susan Senator wrote this post ("Are You Game?") highlighting this article - otherwise, I wouldn't have had any idea that the 2009 Special Olympics Winter Games are being held this weekend in Boise, Idaho. Starting tomorrow and continuing through February 13, more than 2,400 athletes from more than 100 countries will be competing in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, snowboarding, snowshoeing and speed skating.
To give you an idea of how large this is, the 2009 Special Olympics Winter Games are bigger than the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah.
There's something about Special Olympics that has the power to touch even the most hardened of us, I think. It's evident in the folks who, heeding the wish of the event organizers to provide a hand-made scarf to each of the participants, knitted well over the needed 2,000 scarves. At last count, the Winter Games organizers had received 60,000 (and counting).
From the World Games Update page of the Special Olympics website:
And although they all have one goal: to do their personal best and strive for the gold medal, their individual lives and interests are as varied as their numbers. Many live in orphanages, some have never traveled outside their local communities and a few are from nations mired in poverty or countries engaged in conflict and unrest.
There are figure skaters who can unlock the mystery of a Rubik’s Cube, repair watches, make jewelry, play the trumpet and have earned a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. There is a cross-country skier who performs stand-up comedy; a floor hockey player who volunteers at a fire department; a speed skater who is a member of the Society of American Magicians; and one who likes to hike in the Alps. Other athletes include an Alpine skier whose artwork was selected to be in a show, one who competed on her high school gymnastics team and another who appeared in a fashion show with Nadia Comaneci and Mihaela Radulescu. Some are even married and have children, like cross country skier Shawn Stainbrook, the father of twins, from Nevada, USA.
In these depressing economic times, we need the 2009 Special Olympics Winter Games more than ever. The Games are a reminder that we too, regardless of our personal challenges, can overcome obstacles. For one day, for one moment, the power exists for each one of us to triumph over adversity, to climb our mountains and reach for our stars (to quote one of my life mentors).
To become a true world champion.