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Alpine Skiing Returns To Special Olympics

February 14, 2012, 10:30 AM by Jim Madalinsky

Alpine Skiing Returns To Special Olympics
It's been 12 years since South Dakota's Special Olympians have been able to strap on their skis.

"Our last winter games were in 2000 at Great Bear. Our numbers kept on dwindling; we didn't have quality competition so at that point we just decided to drop it," SD Special Olympics Sports Director Mel Frosch said.
More than a decade later, Special Olympics South Dakota is trying again with winter sports, starting with one event.: Alpine skiing in 2012.

"Eventually we'll hopefully add cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding. There's lots of opportunities for us to add events so hopefully that will be coming in the future," Frosch said.

The number of athletes on the eastern half of the state has been limited to just 12 this season, but more are expected to be added in future years.  One difference between 12 years ago and today is the Special Olympics effort to reach out to kids in more than just the areas with slopes.

"We do represent the whole state and we wanted to make sure people from outside of Sioux Falls and Rapid City had the same opportunities," Frosh said.

Athletes from throughout the eastern part of South Dakota including Brookings and Watertown have made the trip to Great Bear every Sunday for practice and for most, the weekend can't get here soon enough.

"We ride together here and to hear the conversation back and how they can't wait for Sunday to come around again. It's a wonderful opportunity for them to experience something different. This is the first time they've been able to ski for most of them," Brookings Special Olympics Director Suzy Gehring said.

And even the athletes who have skied before are happy to get back out on the slopes.

"I love it. It's been 10 years I've been out of it and its still like riding a bike to me," Jesse Johnson said.

The 12 skiers from eastern South Dakota will take their skills west to Terry Peak on February 22nd to join the western half of the state in a ski day, and maybe alittle friendly competition.

"I hope they have very good skiers; I hope they bring their best," Johnson said.

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