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Special Olympics Winter Indoor games allows athletes to shine for first since pandemic | Spotlight

The games returned for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the nation.

YORK, Pa. — For the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes from around the state were able to compete in the Indoor Winter Special Olympics games, which were held in York, Pa.

It was once again a time for athletes from around the Keystone State to shine. From figure skating, speed skating, bowling and floor hockey, this is the first time the indoor games are happening since before the pandemic's forced hiatus began.

“First and foremost, the athletes get a chance to shine and show off how hard they’ve been training and what they’ve worked for, for so long," said Mike Ermer, Special Olympics Western Competition Director.

The games gave athletes of all ages the opportunity to go for gold.

Including the 1996 ESPY Arthur Ashe Award winner for courage, Loretta Claiborne. She's been competing in the games since 1970 and continues to be an inspiration to all while doing what she loves to do.

“It’s awesome because [York] is my hometown," said Claiborne, who competed in the Special Olympics Ice Skating.

Claiborne went on to say, “I can get out there and skate and have a blast, as well as my friends and nobody makes fun of or pokes at each other, and I hope the world can learn from people with intellectual disabilities. We support each other. We’re like a big family.”

Having the event in York opened doors for other Special Olympic chapters statewide to come and compete.

“I think it means to me, being in this skating event, is to have fun and just do the thing I wanted to do," said Emma Burkholder, a member of the Special Olympics Virginia Chapter.

Special Olympics has also brought a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Dana Shick was one of the nine-speed skaters selected to compete in the 2017 World Games in Austria. She’s been competing in speed skating for nearly a decade and always hopes to better herself.

As Dana says, "To beat my old time again," is her goal for the event.

“Dana has taught us so much and has had so many wonderful experiences. It’s just great to be a part of the Area M team," said Dana's mom, Lynn.

Having fun is the name of the game; it didn't matter which event was taking place, their expressions and smiles said it all.

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