Going for the gold is all downhill for athlete


January 04, 2002|By Lesa Jansen | Lesa Jansen,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

AS THE MUCH anticipated Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City close Feb. 24, Mount Airy resident Aimee Buswell will begin her challenge for the gold at the 10th annual Special Olympics Maryland.

She is training intensely for the downhill ski competition at the Winter Games, which will be held Feb. 24-27 at Wisp at Deep Creek Mountain Resort in Western Maryland. She competes seated in a "sit ski," a modified sled with sides.

"It's more fun that any other Special Olympics event that I ever did. All the other events you are mainly in a wheelchair but in this event I can be in the sit ski," she said. Buswell, 26, was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She says competing in the sit ski gives her a sense of freedom.

"I like to compete," Buswell said. "It's so much fun, but it's hard, too. The other [athletes] are just about as good and you have to be a little bit faster. One year there was just a one-tenth of a second difference between me and my friend."

Buswell has competed in the Maryland Winter Special Olympics for 10 years and has returned home with gold, silver and bronze medals.

She and other members of the Carroll County team train Saturdays at Carroll Springs Elementary School in Westminster. They have one "on snow" training day at Ski Liberty before the competition. In addition, each athlete exercises at home to build strength.

Buswell's coach is Special Olympics volunteer Mike McGregor. Her mother, Carol Buswell, said the role of the coach is key to an athlete's success.

"There is so much trust as the coach and the team work as one," Carol Buswell said. "Last year, Aimee got banged up as she was going down the hill on a free run. She got cleaned up and went on to the competition and won the gold. All the athletes know the coach is near to help them if anything goes wrong."

This year, 250 athletes from Maryland will compete at the Winter Special Olympics.

"It's a huge event and we pack it with pageantry such as the fireworks at the opening ceremony to make it as close to the actual Olympic Games as possible. But no matter if the athletes win the gold or come through the competition with a participation ribbon, it's an uplifting experience," said Tom Schniedwind, senior vice president for Sports Marketing Special Olympics Maryland.

More than 200 volunteers will help during the competition.

"They're truly remarkable, the volunteers who help the athletes. They're like the heroes, too," Carol Buswell said.

Christmas tree pickup

Mount Airy continues to pick up discarded live Christmas trees. Residents are asked to leave trees free of tinsel and ornaments at the curb. The last day for tree pickup will be Jan. 11.

Get in shape

Body and Spirit Aerobic classes are being offered every weekday from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Calvary United Methodist Church in Mount Airy.

The cost is $2 per class, with child care available.

Evening sessions will be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from Jan. 22 through March 14. The cost is $32 per session with no child care in the evenings.

Information: 301-829-1394.

Lesa Jansen's Southwest neighborhood column appears each Friday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun

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