Seven British skiers with learning disabilities are heading to South Korea to represent their country at the Special Olympics World Winter Games, which starts this weekend.
The competition will take place in Pyeongchang from January 26 – February 6 and will see more than 2,800 athletes from some 100 nations participating.
The athletes were chosen from 73 skiers with learning disabilities who qualified at Special Olympics Great Britain’s National Alpine Ski Championships in Pila, Italy, earlier this year.
The 7 skiers in the Special Olympics GB team are:
• Wayne McCarthy (31) from Biggin Hill
• Jane Andrews (35) from Tunbridge Wells
• Mikael Undrom (25) from Cobham
• Elizabeth Allen (18) from Llanelli
• Luke Purdie (18) from Aberdeen
• Clare Lines (28) from Redditch
• Robert Holden (21) from Rossendale.
Five-time Olympic skier and eight-time British champion – and a Special Olympics GB ambassador – Graham Bell, joined the team in qualifying, and said: “I was really impressed by everyone’s determination in the Special Olympics GB team to try their hardest.
“I watched most of the Special Olympics athletes and had a chance to ski with a couple of the groups. One young racer told me that she had constructed a whole fantasy world where she got to ski as a Bond Girl and that me skiing with her was like living her fantasy. Very humbling indeed.”
Special Olympics GB’s CEO, Karen Wallin, said: "I would like to wish our seven skiers the very best of luck when representing Great Britain in South Korea at the World Winter Games.
“The year-round sports coaching and events provided by Special Olympics in Great Britain is clinically proven to positively change the quality of lives of our athletes.”
Indeed, recent research from Canterbury Christchurch University shows that those who did participate in Special Olympics had a higher self-esteem than those who did not take part. Findings also concluded that those involved in Special Olympics had wider social networks and lower stress levels.