'Brave in the attempt'

Competition means more than winning for Special Olympians

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The important thing in these Olympics is not so much winning as taking part.

Ethelbert Talbot, a Catholic bishop, uttered those words when addressing a service of Olympic athletes for the 1908 London Games. Nearly a century later, his words still reverberate with meaning.

Competition, above winning, was at the forefront Saturday for the 139 athletes and 15 coaches participating in the 2006 Special Olympics Colorado Western Area Summer Games at Moffat County High School.

"Our oath is, 'Let me win, but if I cannot, let me be brave in the attempt,'" said Julie Fite, Western Area director for the Special Olympics. "(The athletes) take this seriously, they do. They want to win. It's their time to strut their stuff. But, winning isn't the only thing that matters."

Athletes and coaches from across the area competed in aquatics, power lifting and track and field events. The marathon day concluded with an awards ceremony in the high school gymnasium.

Debbie Lithicum, an athlete on the Steamboat Springs Horizons Specialized Services team, earned a silver medal in the 400-meter walk. Her coaches and supporters beamed with pride for Lithicum, but no one was happier than she.

"I did a good job," she said, smiling. "I'm going to hang this in my room."

Dan Rice, a Craig athlete, trained two to four times a week for several weeks in preparation for the games. His hard work culminated Saturday with two gold medals he won for the shot put and 1,500-meter walk for men older than 30.

"It's all just for fun," said Rice, who's been competing at the Special Olympics since he was 8 years old.

Ginny Cannon and Chris Becea, counselors for Steamboat Horizons, said their athletes win by just being at the competition.

"Our guys look forward to this every year," Cannon said. "By the time the day comes around, they're just thrilled. They're here to have fun."

"They'll wear those medals every day for a couple of weeks," Becea added. "It's a really good sense of accomplishment for them."

The weekend kicked off Friday night with an Olympic-village style event where athletes were treated to a dinner and dance, petting zoo and music. Saturday's games were preceded by opening ceremonies that included a lighting of the Olympic torch.

Athletes earning gold medals are invited to a state competition this summer. If they earn gold medals at the state level, they are placed in a lottery for the World Games, which are next year in China.

Fite praised the work of volunteers from the Craig Kiwanis Club, which has sponsored the competition for more than 20 years.

"They have done an outstanding job," she said. "All of our volunteers have.

"This was special because the whole county comes out. This was the biggest event that's been here in quite a bit, so more people came to enjoy it."

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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