Loretta Claiborne Special Olympics

Loretta Claiborne, of York County, competes in the downhill skiing event at the 2018 Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Champion, Somerset County, on Monday, January 29, 2018.

Diana Vinzani is watching the forecast in the hopes that snow is on the way this weekend.

As Somerset County’s coordinator for the Special Olympics, Vinzani is looking forward to having athletes from across Pennsylvania in her backyard next week for the statewide Winter Games.

Somerset County will have six athletes competing, Vinzani said – two in cross-country skiing and four in snow-shoeing.

“They are very excited. They’re ready to go,” she said. 

“They’ve been training hard. Now we’re just hoping for snow.”

The Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games will be held Sunday through Tuesday at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Champion.

As our Kelly Urban reported, athletes from more than 20 counties – plus competitors from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia – will be in the area.

Hosting the Special Olympics Winter Games is a blessing for our region.

We urge folks to get out and cheer on the athletes – such as Somerset County’s Andy Sambol, who won two gold medals and one silver in snow-shoeing at the 2018 Games.

“I had lots of fun,” Sambol said at the awards ceremony last January, when more than 300 competitors participated in events that also included alpine skiing. 

This year’s event will feature snowboarding as a demonstration event.

Opening ceremonies are set for 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Festival Plaza at Seven Springs. 

The night will include speakers and a fireworks display, along with the lighting of the Olympic torch.

Then the competition for medals will take place Monday and Tuesday across the resort.

A victory dance will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at the resort’s Exhibit Hall. 

The awards ceremonies and closing ceremonies are set for Tuesday.

This is the 42nd year of the Pennsylvania Winter Games, which relies on more than 1,000 volunteers.

Mike Ermer, competition director for Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s western region, called Seven Springs “the perfect venue to give our athletes an opportunity to qualify for the 2021 World Winter Games in Sweden. Working with the resort is amazing and they really bend over backward to accommodate everything that we need. They come up with ideas that are out of this world.”

Vinzani agreed.

“Seven Springs has been awesome,” she said. 

“They’re always looking to do everything they can to make this event the best it can be.”

Awesome venue. Superb event. Amazing people competing, coaching and supporting.

The Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games has it all.

Go see for yourself. 

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

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