Madison, Wis. (PRESS RELEASE) – When X Games Aspen returns to celebrate its 17th year in Aspen Snowmass, Colo., from January 25-28, the winter action sports and youth lifestyle festival will descend upon Buttermilk Mountain and showcase the talents of more than 200 world-class athletes from around the globe. X Games Aspen 2018 – with live coverage on ESPN and ABC and an extensive array of content across digital platforms – is also presenting a Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding dual slalom competition on Thursday, Jan. 25. Each team will consist of one Special Olympics athlete and one X Games athlete participating in the dual giant slalom race on Buttermilk Mountain. Each of the team members will take one run on each of the two competition courses, with the professional athletes racing against one another and the Special Olympics athletes racing one another. The combined best times of each team will determine the results.
As one of only eight Special Olympics athletes, Special Olympics Wisconsin’s own Daina Shilts was chosen to participate in Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding Races as part of this year’s X Games in Aspen, Colorado on Thursday, January 25th from 2:15 – 3:00 p.m. MST. The event will be streamed live on the ESPN3 with additional highlights incorporated into the X Games Aspen coverage on ESPN and ABC throughout the weekend.
“Special Olympics Wisconsin is thrilled that Daina has been invited back to the X Games for Unified Snowboarding,” said Kathleen Roach, President and CEO of Special Olympics Wisconsin. “Between last year’s X Games, the Special Olympics World Games in Austria, the ESPY Awards, and her role as spokesperson for Finish Line’s holiday campaign, 2017 was a banner year for Daina as an ambassador of inclusion. This is a great way for her to start off 2018 with momentum in showing the world what inclusion is really about. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics this year, her role in the Inclusion Revolution is more important than ever.”
Shilts, of Neillsville, has been a Special Olympics Wisconsin athlete for nearly 20 years. In the last few years, she has skyrocketed to elite snowboarder status. She took three gold medals home from the World Winter Games in Austria. This added to her growing collection that includes three medals from the 2013 World Winter Games in South Korea. As a result of her athletic achievements and tireless work toward promoting inclusion, she was invited to be on stage at the ESPY’s in July with seven other Special Olympics athletes and Michelle Obama as Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on behalf of his late mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who started the Special Olympics movement 50 years ago. Shilts also received an honorary ESPY from that experience. In 2017, she also became the first individual Special Olympics athlete to serve as the face of athletic retailer Finish Line’s holiday campaign to benefit Special Olympics. She has competed in the X Games Unified Snowboarding since it began in 2015 and has medaled each year.
“I am so honored to be representing Special Olympics Wisconsin at the X Games again. I can’t wait to see my snowboarding partner and friend, Hannah Teter, once again. We have been X Games partners all four years of this event and we’ve medaled every year. We are the only all-girl team, so Girl Power!” Shilts said. “But this year, we are both 100% aiming for first place. Having all of my Wisconsin family and friends with me in Colorado in spirit will help us achieve that. Look out X Games, Hannah and I are coming for some gold!”
Shilts’ partner, X Games and Olympic Snowboard SuperPipe gold medalist and Special Olympics Global Ambassador Hannah Teter, helped bring the Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding Races to X Games four years ago as an official part of the X Games lineup. The Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding races combine athletes – with and without intellectual disabilities – as teammates to showcase the power of Special Olympics’ Unified Sports®, which helps unite communities and foster an environment of acceptance and inclusion. More than a million people worldwide take part in Special Olympics Unified Sports® competitions, helping to break down stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities. ESPN is the global presenting sponsor and official media sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports®.