Special Olympics Winter Games close amid bad weather, positive energy

Carlos Stolz, of Montgomery County, skis downhill on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, during the novice giant slalom event at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Champion.

Tuesday’s sloppy weather may have impeded activities for many in the region, however the show went on at Seven Springs Mountain Resort on the final day of the 2019 Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games.

Mike Ermer, competition director for the western region, said that while the morning had its challenges, it was a good day.

“The last day was a challenge with that weather that come bombing through yesterday and into this morning,” Ermer said. “Luckily, we squeezed out all of our cross-country events yesterday.”

While some events were able to be completed before the snow and ice reached the Somerset County resort, Ermer noted that other events did have to be canceled.

“We had to cancel a couple of snowshoe events just because we were tight on volunteers, coming from, particularly, east of the mountains, but we managed to get all of our alpine skiing and snowboarding completed,” he said. 

“The committee that I work with here is made up of volunteers, and the flexibility that they have had this year with the weather challenges has really kind of been above and beyond.”

Special Olympic athletes and coaches gathered on Tuesday for the awards ceremony held in the Grand Ballroom at Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

Beaver County’s Lydia Wert was among more than 300 participants competing in the Winter Games. While representing Team Pennsylvania, Wert won two gold and two silver medals at the Special Olympics USA Games held last year in Seattle.

Wert found herself again on the podium on Tuesday. 

“I just saw her coming out of the ballroom,” Ermer said. “She won three golds in alpine skiing, so she is just loading up the house with gold. It’s crazy.”

Ermer said the feedback he has received this week from those participating in the winter event has been terrific.

“They are all kinds of happy and smiling and excited,” he said. “Even the athletes that don’t win gold medals, they know they did their best. That kind of energy that they bring is infectious. You can see it in the committee – even though we are running on fumes.

“I’m looking at a couple of them from across the room here that are dragging a little bit, just because I know there hasn’t been a lot of sleep, but they are fired up,” 

Ermer, who has worked with the Special Olympics organization for the past 10 years, thanked the resort’s staff members, who he said were positively affected by the athletes.  

“Just being around their energy is something that I think everybody needs to experience,” Ermer said. 

Ronald Fisher is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @FisherSince_82.

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