Athletes bring home hardware and memories from World Winter Games

March 28, 2017

Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes and supporters made their marks last week at the Special Olympics World Winter Games held in Austria by bringing 5 medals back to Wisconsin.

Special Olympics Wisconsin's athletes return home from World Winter Games

Special Olympics Wisconsin’s athletes return home from World Winter Games

Neillsville resident Daina Shilts continued her dominance at the highest levels of competition by capturing two gold medals in snowboarding. In Advanced Women’s Super G, Shilts had the fastest time of any competitor, male or female. In Women’s Slalom, Shilts also took home the gold with a blazingly fast run that was almost 10 seconds faster than her closest competitor.

Daina Shilts takes a bite out of her gold medal

Daina Shilts takes a bite out of her gold medal

Shilts can now add these medals to her growing stack, which includes three medals from the 2013 Winter World Games in South Korea and medals from each of the last three X Games Unified snowboarding events with her partner, Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter. Shilts and Teter also partnered up again in Austria and captured another gold in Unified snowboarding.

Kyle Robinson from Ashland impressed in his first international competition, earning a bronze medal in alpine skiing Super G and placing fifth in alpine skiing Slalom. His showing is all the more impressive given how new he is to Special Olympics. He started competing in Special Olympics Wisconsin just a few years ago and his first major competition was the State Winter Games in 2015.

Kyle Robinson receives his bronze medal

Kyle Robinson receives his bronze medal

Robinson was introduced to Special Olympics by fellow Special Olympics Wisconsin athlete Katelynn Fulweber. They are now engaged to be married on July 15 of this year so 2017 is turning out to be quite the memorable year for Robinson.

Manitowoc cross country skier Heidi Van Abel snagged a silver in the 1k Freestyle while she came in sixth place in the 500m Freestyle and the 4x1K Freestyle Relay.

Heidi Van Abel on the podium with her silver medal

Heidi Van Abel on the podium with her silver medal

Van Abel will remember the World Winter Games for more than the competition that took place last week and all of the fun she had in Austria. Van Abel remarkably competed in these World Winter Games less than a year from having a tumor removed that doctors discovered during pre-Games physical examinations.

Coaches Susan Jodarski, Bonnie Kahn and Steve Meurett from Wisconsin traveled with the Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes and helped Team USA to its successful campaign. Jodarski coached alpine skiing and helped Robinson nab his medal in alpine skiing. Kahn and Meurett helped coach Van Abel and the rest of the US cross-country skiing team.

Left to Right: Heidi Van Abel, Steve Meurett, Daina Shilts, Bonnie Kahn, Kyle Robinson, Sue Jodarski

The Wisconsin delegation: (left to right) Heidi Van Abel, Steve Meurett, Daina Shilts, Bonnie Kahn, Kyle Robinson, Susan Jodarski

The Special Olympics Wisconsin delegation was rounded out by Police Specialist Niki Nelson of Waukesha. As part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg she was a Guardian of the Flame and helped run the Flame of Hope throughout Austria for ten days and ultimately to the Opening Ceremony in Schladming on March 18.

The international event, which is held every four years and is the pinnacle of winter sports in Special Olympics, ran from March 14 through March 25. For the first time ever, ESPN provided groundbreaking coverage of the World Winter Games.

Special Olympics Wisconsin is very proud of these three amazing athletes and grateful to the numerous supporters who have helped make the World Winter Games a reality for them.

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