Bringing home the gold
by Bobby Lee McCulley | February 1, 2018 6:28 am
Last Updated: February 1, 2018 at 6:30 am
Several athletes proudly represented White County during the recent Special Olympics Winter Games by bringing home numerous medals after several rounds of competition.
Special Olympics athletes from across the state of Tennessee came together Jan. 28-30, 2018, to compete in skiing, snowboarding, and ice-skating competitions during the Special Olympics Tennessee Winter Games that were hosted by Ober Gatlinburg, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. White County, which was represented by eight athletes, took to the winners’ podium several times.
Over 150 athletes descended upon Gatlinburg and competed in divisions based on age and ability. On Jan. 28, the Winter Games officially began with the traditional opening ceremonies where athletes participated in the March of the Athletes, the Special Olympics Oath, and the presentation of colors.
On Jan. 29, following the instructional sessions and group assignments, athletes participated in warm-ups and time trials. Competitions took place Jan. 30 where White County’s athletes participated in each event, with the exception of speed skating.
The following athletes represented White County:
-Paul Chilcutt: placed second and third as a first time snow-boarder
-Mary Bailey: won two gold medals as the only woman snowboarder in her division and competed against men
-Erica Brown: won two gold medals as a first time skier
-Ronnie Peek: won two bronze medals
-Ryan Rippberger: won two silver medals
-Alicia Hicks: won two gold medals as a first time skier
-Dustin Price: placed first and third as a first time snow-boarder
-Makinzee Moore: placed second and fourth in skiing. (She was able to advance two levels within two days and had never skied before.)
Nancy Benningfield, Joel Goff, and Callie Marcum coached White County’s athletes who competed during this year’s Special Olympics Tennessee Winter Games.
Over 14,000 athletes participate in Special Olympics Tennessee, which provides year-round training and competition opportunities in 19 different sports. This year marks the 33rd anniversary for the Special Olympics Tennessee Winter Games.
Coming up in July, Special Olympics National USA Games will be taking place in Seattle, Washington. White County will have three athletes participating: Calvin Jones as a power lifter and Mary Bailey and Lexi Wilhite as Team Tennessee, the first unified bocce team, with Jill McCulley coaching. Nancy Benningfield will coach traditional bocce for Team Tennessee.
For those interested in donating to Special Olympics and supporting White County’s athletes, contact Benningfield at (931) 492-0798 or McCulley at (931) 205-1927.