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Olympic dream date

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By Euan Maxwell
Sport
Olympic dream date

FOUR Dumfriesshire athletes are set to make history as they compete in the Special Olympics GB skiing championships.

Ryan Powell, Lennon Hughes, Hayden Keir and Sam Pattinson will represent the Dumfries and Galloway Special Olympics team in the week-long event at Crans Montana, Switzerland from Saturday.

The team of four skiers, accompanied by three coaches, will compete at these national games for the first time in a Special Olympics Winter Games. They will join 90 athletes from across ten clubs in England, Scotland and Wales.

Ryan, aged 13 from Dalbeattie, is visually impaired and skies with a guide in front of him. He said: “I’m very excited and a wee bit nervous. I’m really looking forward to skiing on a mountain for the first time and to meeting new skiing friends.”

Lennon, aged 19 and from New Abbey, started skiing last year and this is his first time competing. He said: “I’m nervous and excited, I can’t wait to see the mountains and all the snow and I’m really proud to be on the first ever Dumfries and Galloway team to go to a winter games and want to try the Swiss chocolate.”

Hayden, 19 from Annan, who started skiing last year, said: “I’m very excited to have the opportunity to take part in these games. “It’s a good chance to meet new people and make new friends and of course I love to travel, so visiting Switzerland is a real bonus.”

Sam, 28 from Gretna, who skis regularly with his family on holiday, said: “I can’t wait to go. I’m looking forward to meeting other teams and making new friends and enjoying myself.”

The athletes have been training hard on the dry ski slope in Carlisle, having only started skiing two years ago. The progress of the group has been impressive in a short time period.

They competed in their first competition in June and are now ready to take the next step and compete in the championships. The skiing event takes place every four years and is one of the highlights and biggest events in the calendar. The three main races and levels being run are slalom, giant slalom and super G.

The Dumfries and Galloway Special Olympics team raised over £10,000 for their trip to Switzerland thanks to a number of businesses donating to the cause.

The council’s disability development officer and team manager Laura Vickers said: “We are very excited about our trip to the Special Olympics following months of hard work and preparation for the competition. “I am sure they will all be great ambassadors for Dumfries and Galloway and come back with an array of medals and ribbons.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported our team and also our team of coaches and volunteers from Carlisle Snowsports who have helped prepare the athletes for this spectacular event.”

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