Seven Springs, Somerset County, Pa. - After weeks of training, about 350 athletes headed to the 40th Annual Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games. The four sports include Alpine and cross country skiing, snowshoe and speed skating.
This is the third year in a row the event has been held at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. The athletes come from all over the state, as well as Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. Many of them come back to compete, year after year.
"It's fun," said Amanda Reiss, a snowshoe athlete.
"I'm just hoping I can get a gold medal or something," said Nicole Ramer, another snowshoe athlete.
The competitors range in age from 8 to over 60-years-old. The president and CEO of Special Olympics Pennsylvania, Matt Aaron, said this is not only a fun way to stay active, it also helps the athletes in other ways.
"It gives them confidence, it gives them self-discipline, it teaches them teamwork. And at the most basic level, it gives them what everyone wants, which is to be part of a team, develop friendships and be part of something bigger," said Aaron. "Our Special Olympics athletes don't want to be special. They just want to be like anybody else. They want to have friends and be part of a team and Special Olympics gives them that opportunity."
Last year, seven athletes qualified to travel to Austria with Team USA for the Special Olympics World Winter Games in March. This year, the competitors are still motivated and going for gold.
The competition continues tomorrow for the finals.