CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine — More than 500 athletes from 80 Maine communities will compete in the 38th Annual Special Olympics Maine Winter Games on Jan. 27-29. Sugarloaf will host the games, which include speed skating and figure skating, several Nordic events, alpine events – downhill, slalom, and giant slalom, plus two snowshoe events, and a dual ski (sit-down ski) competition. Demonstration sports will include snowshoeing, dual skiing and snowboarding.
“This is our 26th year at Sugarloaf, and we are thrilled to be returning,” says Lisa Bird, director of public relations with Special Olympics Maine and the Mistress of Ceremonies. “Sugarloaf and the surrounding community have welcomed us each year with open arms and have gone out of their way to make the games a huge success. The community has supplied volunteers, meals, support services and more to help ensure a fabulous event.”
Special Olympics started in 1968 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver saw a need for some type of sports program for people with developmental disabilities. Having a sister with mental retardation gave Eunice first hand knowledge of the lack of programs available. Soldiers Field was the site of the first Special Olympics games and included nearly 200 athletes from the USA and Canada. After a successful event, many states joined Eunice and held their own Special Olympics Track and Field event. Special Olympics is a year round athletic training and competition program offering Olympic style sports to people with mental retardation of all ages.
In 1970, the very first Winter Special Olympics was held on Kiwanis ski slope in Gorham, Maine. The athletes competed in tubing, downhill skiing, snowshoe races and cross country skiing. The competitions lasted one day and were held in hopes of showing the public that people with mental retardation could participate in sports and social events just like anyone else.
As a result of this successful day of competition, every state is able to provide winter sports. In addition, 80 countries now offer a Winter Special Olympics. “For our athletes, this event is like their state championship,” Bird says. “This is what they have been working toward and training for for months now. It is an opportunity to show their skills and abilities, to re-connect with peers, and to compete at a first class level.”
“It’s an honor to host this wonderful event once again,” says Steve Pierce, Games Director of the event. “Our entire community especially looks forward to welcoming the athletes at the traditional community supper on Sunday evening.”
The games kick off at noon Monday with the uplifting Parade of Champions, followed by the Opening Ceremonies and lighting of the Olympic Torch. A torch light parade and fireworks are scheduled for Monday evening, followed by the Banquet of Champions and Victory Dance in the Base Lodge.
In addition to participating in the various competitions, athletes will have the opportunity to enjoy several fun activities including snowmobile, groomer and sleigh rides, as well as swimming at the Sugarloaf Sports and Fitness Club.
About the Sugarloaf Resort – Located in Carrabassett Valley, ME, Sugarloaf is recognized as one of the top winter and golf resorts in the world and is home to the only lift-serviced above treeline skiing and riding in the East and one of Golf Digest’s America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses. Sugarloaf is a member of the Boyne USA Resorts family of resorts and attractions.