Young athletes prepare for the Special Olympics - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Athletes prepare for the Special Olympics

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Joshua Beaupre is working with his cross-country ski coaches as he gears up for the biggest competition of his life.

"I'm looking forward to winning the gold medal," he said.

The 19-year-old from Burlington is one of 151 athletes from across the country training this week for the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games. They are practicing in Lake Placid, a community that has hosted two international Olympics.

"It adds a lot of Olympic flare to it," said Michelle Stedman, a cross-country skier from Washington.

This is the only chance Team USA will get to practice together before the games next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"We'll be sending training plans back with the athletes, what things they need to work with, what we saw through our evaluations," said Steve Meurette, the Team USA cross-country ski coach.

The athletes will compete in seven different sports, including snowboarding.

Larry Strobridge of Westford revealed his game plan.

"Go fast and beat everybody down there," Strobridge said.

The 10th annual Special Olympics World Winter Games will showcase 3,300 athletes from 112 countries. It's the world's second largest sporting event, only behind the traditional Olympics. The athletes have been training hard.

"I had to some running, some pumping up, squats and everything," Beaupre said.

"I go to the gym almost every day for an hour or hour and a half. I go swimming every four days," Stedman said.

Athletes and coaches say the Special Olympics is not just about the competition, it's also about learning sportsmanship.

"If you are not a good sport, you are not going to have a lot of friends, you are not going to gain any friends by doing it," Stedman said.

"Encouraging other athletes, even if they are your competitors, you don't see that a lot outside of the Special Olympics. That's the heart-warming part of it," Meurette said.

Everyone here says the best part of being on the team is making new friends. But some have their own personal goals.

"Me getting a gold medal," Strobridge said.

Others says just being part of Team USA is already the experience of a lifetime.

"I was shocked and ecstatic at the same time. I didn't expect to be on the team," Stedman said. "If I win, great. If I don't win, that's great also, I did the best I could."

But in many ways they are already winners.

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