Sixteen athletes from Juneau are competing in the 2000 Special Olympics Alaska State Winter Games - a pre-game event for the 2001 World Games - in Anchorage this weekend.
The Juneau contingent includes athletes in Alpine skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding. The event is a qualifier for the 2001 World Games in Anchorage, which organizers expect will be the largest sporting event ever held in Alaska.
Juneau's Sara Muehlberg carried the torch at Thursday night's opening ceremonies.
Athletes who medal (place first, second or third) will be drawn at random to qualify for the World Games. Athletes can also qualify if they are the top finisher from their town.
Chris Ulrich, financial director for Juneau's local Special Olympics organization, said this is the largest contingent of Juneau athletes to attend the Winter Games. The local athletes also attend bowling and track and field events in Anchorage every year.
Ulrich helped train snowshoers Niall Johnson and John Magalotti at a mountain meadow near the Eaglecrest Nordic ski trail. None had snowshoed before.
``They did really well once they got used to having really large things on their feet,'' Ulrich said.
Johnson and Magalotti will compete in various distances, including the 50-, 100-, and 400-meter snowshoe events.
The Alpine skiers and snowboarders will navigate slalom and giant slalom courses.
Athletes from 23 states and four Canadian provinces are scheduled to compete in Alpine and Nordic skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and speed skating. The events take place around the Anchorage Bowl area, from Eagle River to Girdwood.
Juneau's 2000 Special Olympics Winter Games participants
Alpine Skiing - Carl Behnert, Ray Carpenter, Jessica Gilbert, Kelly Haynie, Jacob Mallinger, Justin Roberts, Joanne Sam, Melvin Star, Karen Willey.
Snowboarding - Niall Johnson, John Magalotti.
Snowshoeing - Rachelle Flansaas, Ewanne Menefee, Mirov Menefee, Sara Muehlberg, Ed Parish.