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Home  >  Reading and Writing  >  Pass the Word
Writing and Empathy: Reflections on the Special Olympics  -  Special Olympics, The Last Race
By Maria Crawford, Service High « Prev   Page 9 of 9  

The sky is as even-toned as a painter’s canvas, white washing the entire surface. Planes are heard flying overhead, but are invisible because of the thick falling snow. The snow swirls around as if a child were shaking a snow globe that had been given to them as a souvenir from a vacation in New York. Volunteers and athletes alike swarm into the stadium to await the start of the four-by-one kilometer relay race, which is the last race at Kincaid for the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games. The groomers are making one last trip around the stadium to prepare the freshly fallen snow for the racers, while finish volunteers set up the last of the fencing.
'Northern Lights' by Aurora Blucher, 5th grade

Even though everyone was busy doing their jobs, whether they were working in the timing building, at the "meet and greet" tent, or on a spectator team, all the volunteers kept the idea of the games in their mind. Many took the time to engage in snowball fights or in the construction of snowmen during the last finishing touches before the race. All the heart that went into the Special Olympics is best illustrated during one of the races.

Team Ukraine was wearing bib number 6, and was scheduled to start in the first division this morning. Word spread through the ranks of volunteers that their team was made up of the two fastest and the two slowest skiers in the whole competition. Immediately, interest was drawn towards the skiers wearing number 6.

As the starting gun went off and the flag went down, the first leg of the Austrian team shot far ahead of the other teams’ first leg skiers.

"Wow, look at her!"

"Nice lead!"

"Good technique!"

Voices murmured as the race continued and the skiers’ progress came in updates through the various radios around the field. After a short wait, the first racer could be seen coming through the stadium. "Hey, it’s number 6," a voice in the crowd shouted out.

"Go, go, go!"

"You can do it!"

'Skier' by Rebecca Thurman, 5th grade

The green bib of the first skier approached the tag zone as her teammate wearing the second leg’s red bib waited for the tag. The tag was good and the second skier was sent on her way. "Let’s see if 6 can keep their lead," another voice says.

More divisions are being sent out as time goes by, and the second legs of several teams have already tagged off to the third leg. "Where’s 6?" multiple voices ask.

"Do we have a location on red number 6?" a concerned volunteer asks into the radio.

A crackly voice answers, "She’s almost to the halfway point."

"Thanks. Over."

More racers are coming in and the crowd’s attention turns to the task at hand, cheering in the other racers, entering results, and working the finish. But every so often people stop to ask for updates on team 6’s progress. "Still out,’ was the reply most often repeated. After about fifteen minutes, almost four times slower than her teammate, the Ukraine’s second leg skier could be seen at the far end of the stadium. Cheers erupted from the crowd.


"You can do it!"

"Way to go!"

The skier was slowly but steadily moving her way along the trail. Even though she was being lapped by third and fourth leg skiers, she kept going and never let up. All eyes gazed upon her small frame plodding along the course. Cheers accompanied her on her journey through the stadium. As she came to the first slope in the field, everyone held their breath.

"Come on, come on," was the mantra all lips in the stadium mouthed.

Her legs were stiff and her technique left something to be desired, but she meticulously held on to her footing inch by inch. At the crest of the slope, her body paused like she was deciding whether or not she should continue. Suddenly her knees buckled and her palms landed on the ground to break her fall. Red number 6 was on her hands and knees sliding back down the hill.

'Skier' by John Schoolcraft, 6th grade

The crowd let out a collective sigh. The skier sat motionless, looking at the obstacle before her. Volunteers rushed over to make sure she was OK.

"Oh, get up, number 6. You’re almost there!" encouraging voices declare.

The athlete tries to push herself up, and then after several attempts she succeeds. The crowd jumps up and down with excitement.

"Way to go!"

The Ukrainian skier, little by little, starts going up the incline. Then as quickly as she had picked herself up, she was back down on the ground.


Then, after getting the OK from the officials, one volunteer bent underneath the fencing and came down beside the skier. The volunteer began to crawl up the slope on her hands and knees, demonstrating the sure-fire way to tackle any hill. Mimicking the volunteer, number 6 starts making progress. Observing what was taking place, the spectators watched in silent awe.

The tedious process took well over five minutes, but it was the most inspiring moment many people had ever seen. In the end, Ukraine’s second leg took 22 minutes 27.8 seconds. The third leg skier finished in 34 minutes 51.8 seconds. The fourth leg skier did it in 3 minutes 23.5 seconds.

Although the Ukrainian team didn’t come in first place, they were important to the volunteers and spectators because of how they did their best, and put all their effort into finishing the race. Team Ukraine lived up to the Special Olympics oath: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

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