Beginning March 14, athletes and coaches from Special Olympics Wisconsin will represent the United States and compete among the world’s best at the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria.
Snowboarder Daina Shilts, cross country skier Heidi Van Abel and alpine skier Kyle Robinson will join nearly 3,000 athletes from 110 countries in the Austrian cities of Graz, Schladming-Rohrmoos and Ramsau to compete in the Special Olympics’ premiere winter sporting event, which like the Olympics, are held every four years in a different location around the world.
Daina, of Neillsville, Wisconsin, will be returning to the World Winter Games after bringing home a gold and two silver medals from the World Winter Games in South Korea in 2013. She’ll also be fresh off the 2017 X Games where she partnered with professional snowboarder Hannah Teter in Unified snowboarding and earned a silver medal.
Heidi, of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, will be competing in her first World Winter Games after her hard work paid off and she qualified for the World Games in the 2015 State Games with three medals. She has been involved with Special Olympics for 20 years and the World Games will be especially meaningful for her since she recovered from having a tumor removed last year that doctors discovered during a physical conducted in preparation for the World Games.
Kyle, of Ashland, Wisconsin, is relatively new to Special Olympics and alpine skiing but he has left his mark in short order. He participated in his first State Games in 2015 and took home three medals. 2017 is gearing up to be a memorable year for Kyle, as later in the year he’ll marry his fiancé – who also happens to be the person who introduced him to Special Olympics a few years ago.
In addition to these three amazing athletes, Special Olympics Wisconsin will be sending along coaches and volunteers to Austria to help Daina, Heidi and Kyle represent the USA and Wisconsin.
Steve Meurett, who will be coaching cross-country skiing and also volunteering as a wax technician, leaves for Washington D.C. on March 12 and for Austria on March 13 along with the Special Olympics Wisconsin Winter Delegation. The delegation will be returning to Wisconsin on March 25.
“I am looking forward to getting back together with the entire cross-country team and experiencing and sharing in their success in Austria at the World Games,” Meurett said.
Susan Jodarski will be part of the delegation as a coach for alpine skiing and chaperone for the Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes.
“I know it will be the experience of a lifetime for both the athletes and myself and I am so honored to be part of the Special Olympics World Games team,” Jodarski said.
Additionally, Officer Niki Nelson of the Waukesha Police Department will have the honor of running in the Winter Games’ Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. In this week-long event, law enforcement officers, Special Olympics athletes run with the Games’ torch around Austria in the lead up to the games.
Here’s to hoping the Special Olympics Wisconsin Winter Delegation has fun and that these three amazing athletes bring home the gold!