Dobson hosts Special Olympics in Vail
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL – Christina Hinkle glided across the ice Monday morning inside Vail’s Dobson Ice Arena. As “Kokomo” played in the background, she struck her signature pose – a spiral with her leg arched high behind her body, her skate nearly touched her head.
In the stands, tears gathered in Peggy Hinkle’s eyes. There was a time when she never would have believed her daughter would be ice skating in the Special Olympics Colorado winter games. When Christina, now 25, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome as a newborn, doctors said she would develop slowly.
“They really had no idea how far she could go,” Peggy said.
To see Christina standing on a podium in Vail, with a gold medal wrapped around her neck, well, that was a special moment.
“It gives her a lot of self confidence,” Peggy said.
About 66 athletes from across the state competed in figure skating and speed skating Monday morning at Dobson Ice Arena. Athletes on Copper Mountain also competed in alpine events, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on Sunday and Monday.
Mindy Watrous, president of the Special Olympics Colorado, said the event has been taking place for 22 years.
“This is an opportunity for people in the community and volunteers to celebrate the tremendous abilities of our athletes instead of focusing on their disabilities,” she said.
That celebration almost didn’t happen this year. Faced with a funding shortage, Special Olympics officials announced last year they were canceling the 2010 winter games, Watrous said.
“Our athletes were so disappointed,” she recalled. “This is a really big deal to them.”
Fortunately, an anonymous couple from Denver heard about the Special Olympics’ plight and donated $76,000. The games were back on.
“When we heard, we were so ecstatic and overwhelmed by their generosity,” Watrous said. “For the athletes, this just means the world to them.”
When Christina Hinkle, of Aurora, found out the event was back on, she and her mom celebrated by buying a new skating costume: a longsleeve purple dress with glitter detail.
Christina started training for the event with the help of her volunteer teacher and skating partner, Vail Valley resident Colleen Walker. Walker, 24, once ice skated professionally and now works as a physical therapy aide in Vail. She first started volunteering at the Special Olympics because her sister, who has a learning disability, used to compete. She enjoys helping the athletes reach their full potential.
“It’s really cool to see them improve on the ice,” she said. “When they start, they’re so scared. They start with helmets on and buckets on the ice. It’s so cool to see them get out there and perform.”
Walker traveled to Denver University to work with Christina on her routine. She taught Christina plenty of moves, but the special spiral with the arching leg, well…
“It’s her signature move,” Walker said. “She taught me that one.”
Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.