Play hard, be fair
With the Winter Olympics in Sochi recently past, and the Iditarod and the Paralympic Games ongoing, be sure to add the 2014 Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games to the mix.
Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shiver, the Special Olympics offer an opportunity for those with intellectual challenges to take part in sports.
Last weekend, hundreds of Alaska’s Special Olympians took part in five events, including Alpine Skiing, Snowshoeing, Cross-Country Skiing, Figure Skating and Unified Floor Hockey, held throughout Anchorage.
Included among the competitors were four Chugiak-Eagle River representatives between the three Anchorage-based teams in the floor hockey event held at East Anchorage High.
While the original docket had been slated for eight teams, three teams - Homer, Kodiak and Ketchikan – were unable to make the tournament, which included round-robin action Saturday followed by consolation and championship play Sunday.
Joe Lane, 26 and a 2006 Chugiak High graduate, had a particularly good contest Saturday afternoon, scoring four of Anchorage Avatars’ five goals.
Lane, who has been competing since 2006, has 19 medals at home, he said, and is hoping for at least one more, perhaps in this tournament. He also takes part in Bocce Ball in the fall, and is currently a mentor assistant coach for a Special Olympics basketball team.
Seth Lincoln, 28, another 2006 CHS grad, played right wing for the Anchorage Polar Bears and had several good touches on the leather “puck.” Unlike traditional hockey, this puck is a foot-wide diameter leather donut with a five-inch center, allowing athletes to center the disk on the end their sticks prior to advancing the puck or shooting on net.
Without offside and icing calls, the game allows for quick end-to-end transition and some degree of physical contact – but all in good-natured fun.
“Play hard, be fair,” said Wolf Pack coach Ray LeBlanc to his charges at one point.
Bob Hill, 68, and his son Bobby, 34, also of Eagle River, alternated as goalies for the area’s third team, the Anchorage Wolf Pack, and progressed unbeaten through two rounds of play Saturday. The team went on to win the tournament in championship bracket play Sunday, with members of the winning team receiving gold medals.
Medals were distributed to members of the first- and second-place team events, while participation ribbons were handed out to all levels, leaving everyone with a memento of the annual event.
The Special Olympics’ motto is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Opening and closing ceremonies were held in the East High School auditorium March 7-9.