Special athletes show well

Posted: Sunday, June 18, 2000

Spirits were soaring as area special athletes competed with nearly 300 fellow Olympians in Anchorage June 9 through 11.

Nineteen athletes, ages ranging from 8 to 30, attended the Special Olympics Alaska 2000 State Summer games.

Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with disabilities. According to the organization, sports give Special Olympians continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families and other Special Olympics athletes.

Maggie Reilly, swim coach for the Central Peninsula Swim Team, said the team swam very well and did its best.

"They did really well, and I was very proud of them," she said.

Reilly said Darla Mamaloff, 13, and Grant Fisler, 9, swam their personal bests in all three events they competed in.

Myrna Kuchenoff, 23, was the only swimmer who competed in the 100-meter butterfly.

Reilly said the stroke is a very difficult one to master. "Most people can't do it," she said.

Other swimmers competed in events and exceeded their local best times.

Kyle Heffner, 15, swam the 200-meter backstroke with a finishing time that was 1 minute, 18 seconds faster than his previous best.

John McIntosh, 25, had recently learned the backstroke, and, Reilly said, he did well in the event.

Brenda Elizalde, 14, also recently learned to swim and brought home two first-place medals.

The group was happy to compete and demonstrated great sportsmanship, she said, something everyone on the peninsula can be proud of.

"Everybody stayed real strong and spirits were high," Reilly said.

Spirits also were high for the Central Peninsula Jazz basketball team, coach John Stoner said, though the team placed third with no injuries reported.

Each participant received a bronze medal for their hard work and efforts, and, Stoner said, they plan to be ready for next year's competition.

"They will be back at it next year," he said.

Stoner, a first-year certified coach, said in past years he has played on the court. This year, he said, he saw the flip side of the event.

"I now know what they (coaches) go through," he said.

After the weekend, he said, he now has more respect for the coaches and their duties.

The Summer Games competition is one of three major Special Olympics Alaska state events held throughout the year. The state Winter Games are scheduled for early March and the state bowling tournament is scheduled for late November.

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