Special Olympics

Special athletes shine on ice in Centennial

Contestants display talent and find community through competition

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Special Olympics figure and speed skaters dazzled judges with their grace, balance and joy.

Alexa Barricklow, in the 22-to-29 age division, enjoyed showing her speed and accuracy in the level six compulsory figure skating round, the most advanced division in the competition.

“When I am on the ice, I feel happy and confident,” Barricklow said. “I've always done a lot of sports. I'm looking forward to the ice skating and the awards, too.”

Barricklow, who lives in Centennial, has been skating for 12 years. She is a Metropolitan State University student studying physical education. Her dream is to teach middle school students and share her love of sports.

The state championship was held March 25 at the South Suburban Ice Arena, 6580 S. Vine St. in Centennial. Nearly 50 athletes and volunteers participated in the event.

Christina Hinkle, 32, has lived in Aurora her whole life and started skating at the age of 14. She competes at the level five compulsory level, one of the highest in the competition.

“My favorite part of ice skating is learning new techniques,” Hinkle said. “I like working on my footwork. I am working on my longer leaps … Being out there, I feel inspired.”

Karen Schleu, a figure skating coach for 40 years, coaches a team of 28 Special Olympics athletes and specified partners out of the University of Denver.

“The athletes try really hard and they work really hard,” Schleu said.

Special Olympics Colorado provides year-round training and competition in 22 sports for 21,118 athletes with intellectual disabilities living in the state of Colorado. More than 100 events are held annually for athletes as young as 2 years old.

Shelby Griffin, who competed in the 8-to-11 age group, enjoyed the freedom of gliding on skates so much that she did not want to leave the ice. Volunteers skated out to encourage her out of the rink — Griffin remained smiling.

Paige Tack, a ninth-grader at Lutheran High School in Parker, volunteers with Special Olympics Ice Skating. She started skating a few years ago when she saw the Winter Olympics and wanted to use her passion for the sport to help others.

“I think it is really interesting to see how, no matter what happens to them, the people are always really positive,” Tack said. “These skaters are really there for each other.”

Being on the ice is more than a hobby to the athletes. It is a way for them to showcase hard work, skill and ability, said Mindy Watrous, president and CEO of Special Olympics Colorado.

“These athletes have been training all season and this is a culmination of their efforts,” Watrous said. “It is about inclusion and having everyone involved and engaged. People talk about these athlete's disabilities and what they cannot do and talk about how their lives are limited. Special Olympics show that our athletes are just like everybody else in so many ways and that they deserve to have their place in the community.”

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