Local man competes in Special Olympics and gets gold - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Local man competes in Special Olympics and gets gold

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WAUSAU (WAOW)--Hundreds of athletes, coaches and volunteers headed to Nine Mile Forest this weekend to take part in the Special Olympics. The state winter games included cross county skiing and snowshoe racing.

One local man also headed to the winner's circle.

Twenty four year-old Thao Xiong is a snowshoer.

"Makes me feel pretty good. Good exercise for me," Xiong said.

But he competes a little differently than most of the other athletes.

"When I run, they have me set up with a rope and I just run with the rope," Xiong said.

Xiong is blind. But he doesn't let that stop him from crossing the finish line. With the help of his coach, Xiong is able to compete and even to win.

"It's a great experience for him to go out and do something no one would ever think he could do," Arnole Heil, Xiong's coach said.

The Special Olympics Winter Games have been held in Wausau for the last 24 years. Officials say the games have a lasting impression on participants.

"Those athletes will be wearing those medals for weeks after," said Bob Whitehead with the Special Olympics.

They say the love of the sport is what keeps these athletes coming back.

"These athletes are truly here because they enjoy competing," Whitehead said.

As for Xiong, he placed second in the 50M race. And later in the day, in the 100M race, he took home the gold.

"Makes me feel pretty good and happy. That I can do it. Shows them I can do it," Xiong said.

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Every athlete coach and volunteer at the games was given a hand-made scarf to wear.

Volunteers say Scarves for Special Olympics started back in 2009. Organizers ask volunteers to knit and crochet the warm winter wear, and the color changes every year.

This year, they were red and blue. Coordinators say the scarves hold special meaning for everyone involved.

"To know that somebody, somewhere hand-made that scarf for our athletes is an incredible thing," Bob Whitehead with Special Olympics said.

Special Olympic officials say they asked for 600 scarves this year. They say more than 1,800 were donated. Participants wore the scarves during the games as a sign of unity.

Online Reporter: Cassandra Vinch

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