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‘In it for the athletes’

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Special Olympians take to the ice in figure- and speed-skating competition

By Deborah Swearingen

Sheila Rea held her breath as her daughter, Gina, tipped forward, gliding along the ice on one skate.

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“Now I can breathe again,” Sheila said after Gina triumphantly took a bow, signaling the end of her routine.

The 25-year-old South Jeffco resident was one of many athletes from across the metro area who last Saturday competed in the Colorado Special Olympics Figure and Speed Skating Competition at South Suburban Ice Rink in Centennial.

This particular competition is considered regionals, and the athletes who placed will return to South Suburban for the annual state competition.

Despite the inevitable nerves, Sheila feels nothing but pride when her daughter hits the ice. An avid athlete, Gina has been skating since age 6. She also volunteers at Primrose School of Ken Caryl and goes to Stepping Stone Support Center. Sheila knows how much her daughter has to teach people.

“I love how much other people learn from her,” she said, smiling.

After several hours of figure skating, where athletes competed alone and in pairs, concluded, the Southsiders Speed Skating team took the ice. Five competitors, all from the same team, raced against each other and the clock. They competed in 25-, 50-, 100-, 500- and 800-meter races.

Prior to entering the chilly arena, the speed skating competitors gathered in the lobby, lacing their skates, strapping on their helmets and listening to words of encouragement from their families and coach.

Mary MacLeod, whose son, Jeremy, is on the speed skating team is coaching the team for the first year. For MacLeod, it’s all about the team.

“I’m in it for the athletes,” she said.

Many of the athletes also play hockey and use speed skating for additional practice on the ice. Brothers 25-year-old Mark and 27-year-old Tim Cater of South Jeffco are two such skaters. Their mom, Deanna, said her sons generally feel most comfortable with a hockey stick.

But this did not stop Mark and Tim from being fiercely competitive.

Each time they rounded the ice, both Mark and Tim flashed a cheerful thumbs up and a huge grin to their mom, who watched from her spot in the stands. Deanna said she’s proud of her sons. When they first learned to skate, they used walkers for balance. Now, they’re good to go.

“I love watching the Special Olympics stuff,” Deanna said. “They’re just out there to have fun.”

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.