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Athletes, coaches set to kick off Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games

Tribune-Democrat - 2/2/2020

Feb. 2--Get ready because the games are about to start.

More than 300 athletes are gearing up to show off their skills, along with 135 coaches, who will be coming to the region to take part in the 2020 Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games.

The opening ceremonies will begin at 7:30 p.m.Feb. 9 in Festival Plazaat Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Champion, Somerset County.

The opening will include speakers, performances to motivate and entertain the athletes, the parade of athletes and fireworks. The games will commence with the official lighting of the Olympic torch.

This year's competition also will include the fifth annual Unified Sports Experience featuring Special Olympics athletes and partners in a friendly snowshoeing competition prior to opening ceremonies for the honor of carrying the Special Olympics flag into the opening.

Competition will begin Feb. 10 and continue through Feb. 11.

There will be alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and for the first time snowboarding at Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

Expected to compete are athletes from Allegheny County, Area M (Dauphin, Perry, Cumberland and northern York), Area P (Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike, Lackawanna and Wyoming), Armstrong/Indiana counties, Beaver County, Bethlehem City, Bucks County, Butler County, Carbon County, Centre County, Chester County, Erie, Lancaster County, Lehigh County, Lycoming County, Montgomery County, Northampton County, Somerset County, Washington County, Westmoreland County and York County as well as athletes from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

"We are thrilled to be continuing our relationship with Seven Springs Mountain Resort and the surrounding communities who have continued to welcome our athletes, coaches and volunteers with open arms," said Mike Ermer, SOPA's competition director for the western region.

In addition, the Winter Games will host the Healthy Habits program, where interactive education stations will help build awareness of how healthy habits affect sport performance and every day life. Health and fitness coordinators will be on site to discuss nutrition and healthy food options.

A highlight of the games is the Victory Dance at 7 p.m.Feb. 10 in Seven Spring's Exhibit Hall.

The gathering brings athletes, coaches and organizers together for an evening of celebration and camaraderie.

Awards and closing ceremonies will be held at each venue on Feb. 11.

"It has been amazing to watch this event get bigger and better each year, and I know our Winter Games committee has been diligently working to make this the best year yet," Ermer said.

In addition, more than 1,200 people are expected to serve in various capacities, including as officials, athlete escorts, award presenters and in administrative support services.

The Winter Games, now in its 43rd year, are an integral part of SOPA's mission of providing year-round training and competition in 21 Olympic-type sports to more than 20,000 children and adults with intellectual or related developmental disabilities, according to the organization.

For a complete schedule of events, visit www.specialolympicspa.org.

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(c)2020 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.)

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