Special Olympian Skye Breitenfeldt rounds the corner during the afternoon snowshoe races. PHOTO BY JOLENE PALMER

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Special Olympians converge for the Big Sky Area Winter Games

Heavy, windblown snow came down sideways at times, but that didn’t discourage 11-year-old Special Olympian Payton Fulton. He flew down the Cupajo run, whipping through the gates with ease as his volunteer helper pulled up the rear and Lone Peak High cheerleaders celebrated from the sidelines.

Volunteer Jana Harold was also there for the Special Olympic’s Big Sky Area Winter Games on Feb. 26, cheering on the Olympians skiing and snowboarding in the afternoon alpine downhill final races. Harold, who’s from Jacksonville, N.C., was in Big Sky vacationing with family and while searching through the events taking place during her stay, she decided to volunteer for the Special Olympics. 

“We really enjoy this a lot,” Harold said, noticeably hoarse from all the cheering she’d been doing throughout the day, earlier as a snowshoe timer. “It’s just been wonderful.”

After the high-fives and hugs, the young Olympian Fulton stopped to chat with deejay Missy O’Malley, who wanted to know what Fulton had for lunch that made him so fast? “Spaghetti and meatballs!” he cried out into the mic before he continued on to announce the next competitor.

A little earlier and across the way at the entrance of the Madison Base Area, another group of Olympians competed in the 50- and 100-meter snowshoe races. Olympians battled one-on-one through the thick snowfall as they rounded the winding course, surrounded by family, volunteers and interested onlookers. After the race, Special Olympian Darci Wick and her father Mike were taking a moment to unwind.

The Olympic life is nothing new to Darci, this being her ninth winter involved in the Special Olympics. She looks forward to and trains for her snowshoe competitions at Bohart Ranch (now known as Crosscut Mountain Sports Center) and on the elliptical at home in Belgrade. 

“I love everything about it,” Darci said as she reclined on a hanging lift chair. “It’s mostly about teamwork, and I love to see my teammates.” 

Darci’s father said he enjoys watching his daughter and the rest of the Olympians compete. “I think they put more effort in this than some professional athletes—they don’t even try this hard,” he said as cheers and cowbells sounded nearby. “You look at the athletes out here, some of them can barely walk, but they’re trying, they’re giving it their best. And that’s what’s beautiful about it.”


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