Speed is the name of the game at Planet Ice.
As the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games opened in the area on Monday, 51 speed skaters took to the ice at the Richland Township rink, trying their best to secure a place in the finals.
“The athletes are competitive and work hard to get here,” said Lesley Meyer, the winter games event director. “They come out to win and want gold.”
Athletes compete in individual and relay races and are grouped by age, gender and ability level.
“It’s amazing to see, because even if they lose they will go over to the winners and congratulate them, so it’s good to see the sportsmanship not only here but with all the sports,” Meyer said.
Marissa Carr, 20, is participating in her fifth winter games and recently returned from the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Seoul, South Korea.
“I started when I was 16, and I really liked it,” said Carr, who is a member of the Chester County team.
She brought home three gold medals from the world games and said it was a lot of fun because she got to meet new people from different countries.
Carr said her favorite part of the winter games is competing.
“I come to win,” she said.
Haley Kurtz, a senior at Central Cambria High School, was volunteering for the first time.
“I wanted to come out and support the athletes,” she said. “It’s exciting, and I’m surprised how fast they skate.”
What impressed Kurtz most is how supportive the athletes are toward one another. That encourages others to volunteer, she said.
“Definitely do it. You wouldn’t regret the experience you’ll get from it,” she said.
Meyer added that most of the speed skating participants come back year after year to compete.
“They enjoy themselves and have made great friendships,” she said.
Other events held Monday included cross-country skiing and snowshoe at Blue Knob All Seasons, Alpine skiing at Hidden Valley Four Season Resort and figure skating at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
The games conclude today with awards and closing ceremonies.