Athletes from across the state gathered Wednesday at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa to celebrate opening ceremonies for the state’s Special Olympics Winter Games.
After two years of virtual competition Special Olympic athletes gathered in-person for the first time since 2020. Lourin Sprenger, with the Special Olympics, says they’re glad to be back.
“The only way I can describe it’s a feeling of high energy and its infectious energy. Seeing all our athletes and the positive attitudes that they exude, the positive sportsmanship. It’s the best,” Sprenger states.
Over 800 athletes from more than 60 counties will compete in the state’s 44th Winter Games. Events take place at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, Shuss Mountain at Shanty Creek Resort and Howe Ice Arena at the Grand Traverse Civic Center.
“The few days that we’re here together is all about quality sports competition, but it’s also about celebrating one another and celebrating being together and there’s not party in town like the Special Olympics opening ceremonies here at the Resort,” Sprenger admits.
Longtime athlete Max Hinga has been competing in the Michigan Winter Games since he was 8-years-old. He says he’s looking forward to getting back out to Shuss Mountain and hitting the slopes.
“I’m excited to be back,” Hinga confesses. “It means the world because I get to go back and ski on the ski hill again.”
He says he’s excited to have things back to in-person and says he won’t miss the virtual competition,
“Oh well virtual was obviously boring,” Hinga laughs. “It’s exciting because I get to see all the people again. That’s my favorite part. And also a little bit of dancing.”
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