Special Olympians compete for medals at Heavenly | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Special Olympians compete for medals at Heavenly

Chad Sellmer, Tribune staff writer

Jim GrantSusie Enos of Team Tahoe digs in her edges on the slalom course in the 2003 Special Olympics Northeast California Regional Games on Wednesday at Heavenly Ski Resort

About 60 athletes competed for medals, ribbons and the sheer pleasure of winter sports at the Special Olympics 2003 Northeast Regional Winter Games on Wednesday at Heavenly Ski Resort.

Time trials were held on Tuesday, with actual competition — co-sponsored by Heavenly and the Tahoe Daily Tribune — running through Wednesday afternoon. A separate snowshoeing division was also held over the past couple of days at Camp Richardson. Participants from as far away as Fresno and San Jose traveled to South Lake Tahoe for the games.

Several local athletes, both male and female, skiers and snowboarders, competed in various events, including slalom, giant slalom and downhill.

In the men’s division, Philip Sturgeon of Team Tahoe took home gold and silver medals in the advanced skier division in giant slalom and Alpine downhill. Team Tahoe’s John Lahiti was awarded two silvers for men’s intermediate giant slalom and Alpine downhill.

Jody Filgo, a Special Olympics area director and Team Tahoe coach, said the two-day event was “fantastic” and included opening ceremonies, a victory dance following the first day’s time trials, day-long competition on Wednesday and lunch at Heavenly afterward. The events concluded with an awards ceremony.

“Everybody had a fantastic time and the events ran very smoothly,” Filgo said, making special note of Heavenly and Camp Richardson, as well as dozens of volunteers who made the events happen. “The athletes got to have a victory dance after the opening ceremonies. That’s a wonderful time for everybody.”

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Team Tahoe’s Michael Cotter won ribbons for two fourth-place finishes in the GS and downhill of the men’s advanced division. In the women’s bracket, Janelle Johnson won a bronze medal and a fifth-place ribbon for Alpine GS and downhill in the women’s intermediate division. Team Tahoe’s Susie Enos was fourth in two races: women’s intermediate GS and downhill.

Brooke Laugheed, a novice snowboarder, took home two fourth-place ribbons in snowboarding and GS.

“She was the only female athlete in the competition that went up against the males,” Filgo said. “She’s probably one of the best female snowboarders we have in this Special Olympics competition. There were no other females in her division, so she got to go up with the men and she did great.”

A cross country bracket had been established for the winter games but was canceled due to lack of snow.

“The athletes who were to attend that competition will be able to attend the state winter games,” Filgo said. “All of our cross country athletes will get to go out to Kirkwood March 10-13.”

One accident did put a bit of a damper on the festivities. South Lake Tahoe snowboarder Michella Smith, who won a silver medal for snowboarding in the GS, was injured Wednesday when she fell and hit her head.

Although transported by ski patrol off the mountain, her injuries did not appear serious.

“She was feeling dizzy, so they took her to the hospital,” Filgo said. “Her parents were there with her the whole time.”

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