Snowboarding added to Special Olympics PA Winter Games at Seven Springs

SOMERSET COUNTY, Pa. — For 43 years, hundreds of athletes have competed in the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games.

This year, athletes are bringing their talents to the mountains at Seven Springs and some athletes are taking on the mountain in a new way.

For the first time in the history of the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games, athletes are competing in a new sport: snowboarding.

“We thought it was important that it was in Special Olympics and the athletes had a chance and an option other than skiing and snowshoeing for their winter games,” co-director and coach of the games, Ashley Amato, told WJAC.

After having several athletes try snowboarding at the last two winter games, this year there were enough competing to make it an official sport.

"Last year there weren't enough snowboarders, so we only got ribbons. This year we're going to get medals because there's enough snowboarders for it to be a medaled event now," said Kristine Acevedo, mother of one of the athletes.

It's a challenge the athletes said they were up for.

"First time it was great. It was definitely learning something new something I wasn't used to. It was great. Even when you fall, you want to get back up and keep going," said competitor Leo Acevedo-Medina.

The coaches said they were up for the task too.

"They really listened to their coaches and bonded with their coaches and you know, they go down black diamonds now and I'm sitting in the lodge a little freaked out by that - but that's what they're doing. They're their own persons. They want challenge. They want to do this," said Amato.

Athletes said it's given them more than just a sport to compete in. "The people, the interactions, a lot of cool snowboarders out there. A lot of great conversations and stories they teach you a lot it's like a family," said Acevedo-Medina. "If you don't do snowboarding, get into it. It's fun."

"The top three things people say with snowboarding is that it's cold, you're going to hurt yourself and it's expensive. Special Olympics covers the expenses, your coach is going to keep you from falling and if you wear the right equipment, you're not going to be cold. So there's no reason not to get out there and enjoy some snow," said Amato.

The games wrapped up Tuesday afternoon.

Coaches said they’re hopeful in the future that athletes who choose to snowboard can go on to compete at the Special Olympics World Winter Games.