CARRABASSET VALLEY — Special Olympians will have to cut short the planned three-day Maine Winter Games on Monday as a major winter storm bears down on the state.

But that’s not going to stop the approximately 500 athletes and their coaches who arrived Sunday for the 46th annual event at Sugarloaf Mountain from competing and having fun, said Lisa Bird, director of public relations for Maine Special Olympics.

“We have a pending huge storm coming,” Bird said by telephone from the mountain Sunday morning. “Our athletes’ safety is the most important thing to us. We really don’t want people traveling in bad weather.”

An estimated 800 people sat down to a public casserole supper and desserts hosted by residents of Carrabassett Valley and surrounding areas Sunday evening. Supper was followed by outdoor skating, hot chocolate, a sing-a-long and karaoke, but organizers kept an eye on the weather forecasts.

A major nor’easter is expected to bring heavy snow, wind and possibly blizzard conditions to much of the Northeast Monday night and into Tuesday. Bird said they have had to shorten a few events in the past because of dangerous cold, but she doesn’t remember having to send people home early.

Opening ceremonies featuring a parade of athletes will begin at noon Monday and competitors will do “double time” to get in as many events as possible before it’s time to hit the road and scoot home ahead of the storm after a 5 p.m. dinner, Bird said.

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Athletes at the winter games compete in Nordic skiing, Alpine skiing, snowshoe, speed skating and dual ski.

Special Olympics is a year-round athletic training and competition program for adults and children with intellectual disabilities. In Maine there are more than 3,800 athletes involved in the program. Special Olympics Maine offers about 60 events annually at the local and state levels. The state Winter Games at Sugarloaf hosts about 500 athletes from 68 teams.

Competition was scheduled to run through Tuesday morning with closing ceremonies at noon, but the weather is not obliging, Bird said.

“Our plan is to have everything over by dinner time Monday,” she said. Bird said athletes travel from all over the state of Maine to the winter games, which are the highlight of the year and the reward for training and practice.

Bird, who grew up in Farmington volunteering for Special Olympics and has worked for the organization for 22 years, said excitement ran high among the athletes as they made their way to the mountain on Sunday.

She said the coming winter storm has not diminished the excitement and the desire to compete. Organizers will just have to squeeze competition events into one day on Monday, Bird said.

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“Our athletes have been training for several months getting ready to come up here and compete for the winter games,” she said. “They’ve been doing a lot of work to come up here to really show their stuff. The excitement level is high — it always is when we head into a state game. This is their big state event, this is their state championship.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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