Friday, January 11, 2002

Skiing sends pride uphill

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        LAWRENCEBURG — Matt Selm had not been skiing in 10 years before Thursday.

        Matt, a 17-year-old junior at Boone County High School, was one of about 107 Northern Kentucky skiers and 105 volunteers at Perfect North Slopes for the Area 7 Special Olympics competition.

[photo] Brian Pohlkamp, a Conner High freshman, practices for the Special Olympics ski competition.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        “It got easier as you go,” said Matt, who has been visually impaired all his life. “It's not the easiest thing in the world. I'm having fun, though.”

        Area 7 serves some 500 children and adults with disabilities in Boone, Campbell, Kenton, Owen, Pendleton, Grant, Gallatin and Carroll counties. It offers 13 activities — skiing, basketball, swimming, track and field, golf, softball, bowling, adult and children's fishing, soccer, roller skating, art and cheerleading.

        Cindy Goetz, one of the coordinators of the skiing event, said the trip to Perfect North is one of the most popular among Special Olympians.

        “They like skiing because it's a big challenge,” said Ms. Goetz, who teaches visually impaired students for the Boone County School District. “They usually never have the money to do it.”

        Skiers did not need to fret about funds Thursday.

        • Perfect North supplied the skis, boots, poles and lift tickets for free and pizzas for lunch at reduced prices.

        • The Bellevue Police Department sprang for the drinks.

        • Special Olympics provided the helmets.

        • Cincinnati Ski Club members and high school and middle school students from St. Henry, Newport, Conner and Boone County were among the volunteers.

        Thursday started with a couple of hours of skiing fundamentals. Among them:

        • Remembering not to tuck pant legs inside the boots because it could cut off circulation to the feet.

        • Using the tow rope and chair lift.

        • Snowplowing — learning how to stop.

        • Practicing ski etiquette by not cutting off or plowing into someone else.

        Ms. Goetz and co-coordinator Bill Mattingly have been working on the event since November. Thursday was the 15th time at Perfect North after eight years at the now-closed General Butler State Park slopes near Carrollton.

        Each skier had a volunteer. Rich Brown, a member of the Cincinnati Ski Club, was Matt's.

        “I've given him all my speed tips,” said Mr. Brown, who wore a brace on his right knee, a reminder of the skiing accident he had in a blinding snowstorm several years ago in Colorado.

        Richard Wolf, a freshman volunteer from St. Henry High School, paired off with Charlie Boles, 10, a fourth-grader at Grandview Elementary School in Bellevue.

        “I wanted to try it,” said Charlie, on skis for the first time.

        While others wore jackets to keep warm, Richard's only upper-body cover was a white T-shirt bearing the slogan “Play hard, don't blink.” Richard said he was not cold, and he complimented Charlie's emerging skills.

        “He's great,” Richard said. “He listens well.”

        Amy Burns, 20, of Hebron bagged a gold medal in beginner downhill and gold in beginner slalom in her first time on skis. And she was as proud Thursday as any medalist at next month's Olympics in Salt Lake City.

        “I whipped it,” she said.

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