Kent feels fervor of Olympics

By Justin Boyd Record Courier staff writer Published:

Not all figure skaters, speed skaters and skiers are traveling to Japan for 1998 Winter Olympic competition. Some are facing the challenge right in Kent.

Kent State University Ice Arena was the site of the skating competitions in the 1998 Ohio Winter Special Olympics. This year marks the 16th time the games have been held.

More than 230 athletes from all over Ohio vied to be medalists in four events: Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, figure skating and speed skating.

KSU hosted the skating competitions. Skiing took place at Brandywine Ski Resort near Macedonia.

Depending on their skating ability, athletes competed in 25-, 50-, 100- and 300-meter speed-skating competitions, said Luigi Lettieri, local coordinator for Portage County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disability Special Olympics.

Lettieri coached the four athletes from Portage County who competed in Thursday's skating finals. Five Portage County athletes competed in skiing events, coached by Clarence Williams, another Portage County Board of MRDD volunteer.

Athletes in the Special Olympics trained for eight weeks for their events, Lettieri said.

"They improved their skating skills throughout the season," he said.

Lettieri said he was pleased by how his athletes performed.

"We did fantastic," he said. "Our athletes received seven medals. They did a terrific job."

More than 60 volunteers from Ravenna High School, KSU Nursing Club and the KSU Athletics Club helped with the event, said Joe Antonucci, a member of the Summit County Board of MRDD and venue director at the KSU Ice Arena.

Six judges from the greater-Cleveland area, certified by the United States Figure Skating Association, rated figure skaters, he said.

Special Olympians from as far as Cincinnati, Toledo and Columbus stayed at the Holiday Inn in Hudson, Antonucci said. The competition lasted three days.

Winning medals was only one reward for competing, Lettieri said.

"They really enjoyed it which is the important thing," he said.

Now that the winter games are over, athletes will begin preparing for spring and summer events such as bowling, track and field and volleyball, Lettieri said.

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