MUSCATINE, Iowa—As the weather turned sharply colder, sixteen Muscatine Special Olympics athletes braved the elements to compete in this year’s Iowa Winter Games. An annual favorite, athletes from Muscatine competed against numerous teams from across the state to show off their skills in skiing and snowshoeing Jan. 13-15.
For three days, Muscatine Special Olympics athletes traveled to Dubuque, Iowa for the Iowa Winter Games, held at Sundown Mountain Ski Resort and Albrecht Acres. After attending the opening ceremonies, nine athletes competed in snowshoe racing (which included 100-meter, 200-meter, and relay races) while seven competed in skiing (two in downhill and five in cross country). The downhill skiers also had the opportunity to compete in two intermediate level events, slalom and giant slalom.
Always a popular event among Muscatine Special Olympic Athletes, Jason Miller, Muscatine Special Olympics Director, shared that he finds they really value getting to compete at the Iowa Winter Games every year. “I think they really enjoy the competition,” he said. “They look forward to competing and showing people what they can do and they like cheering on their teammates to do well.” In turn, Miller enjoys providing them this sporting opportunity.
This year’s competition proved particularly meaningful for one long time skier who honored the memory of his mother with his first-place finishes in both slalom and giant slalom. A skier with the Muscatine Special Olympics for the past 35 years, Miller said this athlete looks forward to the event each year. However, he considered not going this winter because of his mother’s declining health. Knowing how much the competition means to him and how much his mother supported him, his whole family encouraged him to go anyway. As Miller put it, “This is what his mom would want him to do and he wanted to do this for his mother.”
Sadly, the athlete learned his mother passed away in the night before his competition, but he went on the next day to do his best to honor her, bringing back two gold medals. Miller considered it a touching moment and a reminder of how Special Olympics helps so many people through challenging times. “For us, these kinds of stories solidify the work we are doing,” he stated: “As coaches, we are proud of how our athletes overcome every day and not everyday obstacles in their lives. On this trip, he was able to overcome both and we’re proud we could provide this opportunity for him.”
Now that all of Muscatine’s athletes are home from the Iowa Winter Games, many have already begun to prepare for the next events they have in store. With basketball season well under way, the Muscatine Special Olympic basketball players look forward to their annual game against the Muscatine Fire and Police Departments on Feb. 17. Muscatine Special Olympics’ swimmers have also begun to practice and invite you to attend their district swim meet, which they will host at Carver Pool in Muscatine High School on Feb. 29.