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Sykesville Special Olympian will go for the gold in Alpine races


Lillehammer's Golden Boy of the ski slopes, Tommy Moe, has nothing on 19-year-old Sykesville resident Amy Dietrich.

Mr. Moe may have won gold and silver medals in Norway, but, as a veteran of the Maryland Special Olympics Winter Games, Ms. Dietrich has been winning medals for years.

"It is great. This is my fifth year," said Ms. Dietrich, a medal contender in the event's modified Alpine races. "It's easy."

Now in its eighth year, the Special Olympics Winter Games continue to showcase and encourage the talents of people with mental retardation while helping them achieve personal success through sports competition.

About 125 novice, intermediate and advanced athletes -- eight from Carroll -- will compete in Alpine downhill races, modified Alpine races and cross country skiing competition during the three-day event, which begins next Sunday.

The Alpine contest courses are downhill, slalom and giant slalom.

Contestants will also ski in cross country matches, which are divided into seven events: 50 meter, 100 meter, 500 meter, 1 kilometer, 3 kilometer, 3-by-500-meter relay and 3-by-1-kilometer relay.

"We try to as best we can [place competitors in races] according to age, sex and ability," said Leslie Atherholt, a Special Olympics spokeswoman.

"Our goal is to prepare our athlete for non-Special Olympics events, so we put them in heats the way they would be in other competitions."

Athletes worked hard to prepare for this Olympics, Ms. Atherholt said.

"They sign up and were required to go through eight weeks of training," she said.

"They are trained to develop the appropriate muscles and learn as much of the technique as they can on dry land."

The athletes then had to complete two days of training on snow during sessions held the weekends of Feb. 5 and 12 at Ski Liberty.

Ms. Dietrich has "been going for a few years, and she's won somethingat every one," said her father, Richard Dietrich.

Competing in the modified Alpine races, Ms. Dietrich will be sitting and using a device for paraplegics who use their upper body strength to steer the ski.

"They also get to meet people and socialize and do things they may not think they can do," Mr. Dietrich said.

During opening ceremonies at Wisp, the resort's ski patrol will carry the torch down the mountain to signal the start of the games. The closing ceremony and parade of participants will be held at about 2 p.m. Tuesday.

All participants in each event receive awards.

First-, second- and third-place winners will get gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively, while fourth- through eighth-place winners will get ribbons.

Although ribbons are pretty, Ms. Dietrich said that what she wants is a medal.

"Gold," she said confidently. "I hope I get a gold."

Other Carroll athletes are Charles Arbaugh, Stephanie Carpegna and Andy Nies of Westminster; Aimee Buswell of Mount Airy; Adam Dunn of Sykesville; Tammy Robertson of Finksburg; and Chris Shaffer of Manchester.

The Maryland Special Olympics Winter Games will be from Feb 27 to March 1 at Wisp Ski Resort in McHenry, Garrett County. For more information, call the Special Olympics at (410) 931-4100.

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