Special Olympics Illinois is celebrating its 41st Winter Games this year in Galena. Winter Games is one of 13 annual state championships and is the culminating competition for athletes competing in Alpine skiing and showshoeing. For some athletes, however, this Winter Games has a different focus.
Every four years, Special Olympics North America holds a USA Games, inviting delegations from each state to participate. Special Olympics Illinois is sending a 104-person team to Orlando, Florida this June to compete in nine of the 19 Olympic-type spots offered at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.
With USA Games just four months away, Team Illinois has started its preparation. Following a guided fitness challenge, these athletes have been tracking their steps each day, making sure to exercise, eat healthy foods, and drink enough water.
One important element of preparing for USA Games is cross training. In addition to focusing on running to prepare for their track event, for example, Team Illinois athletes are taking the opportunity to train other muscles by participating in different sports like Alpine skiing or showshoeing at Winter Games.
This week, numerous Team Illinois athletes will participate in Winter Games. Colleen Costello, Special Olympics Illinois and Team Illinois athlete from Region J, says she definitely sees Winter Games as a cross training opportunity. Colleen is competing in the 800- and 1600-meter showshoe races at Winter Games, and she will represent Team SOILL in gymnastics at USA Games.
“What I do in gymnastics is good for snowshoe, and snowshoe gets me in shape for gymnastic. Vault is my favorite gymnastics event and the first thing you do for that is run to the vault,” Colleen said.
“I am so excited to be going to USA Games,” she continued. “This will be my second national games. Back in 2006, I went to the very first USA Games, called the ‘Games at Ames’ in Iowa. I got gold in the all-around for gymnastics. Going to the 2022 USA Games at Disney (Orlando) is going to be awesome!”
The Special Olympics Illinois community looks forward to cheering on Colleen and all of her fellow athletes in Galena and again while they face national competition in Orlando. Be sure to visit soill.org to keep up on all competitions as they happen.