Kolbi, only 7 days after claiming a state championship at the Special Olympic Unified Bowling Tournament in Barre, made Bellcate history as being the first Bulldog ever to hit the slopes for the Winter Games put on by the Special Olympics.
Kolbi and I made the 90 mile drive on Sunday, March 28th, to Pico Mountain in Killington, Vermont which played host for this year’s Winter Games. After registering our one man wolf pack, Kolbi and I went to check into our condo about 4 miles from the mountain. Kolbi and myself were amazed with how nice the condo was. Kolbi chose the loft and quickly made himself at home by unpacking his bag in his sleeping quarters. “This place is awesome,” Kolbi kept on saying!
After unpacking quickly, Kolbi and I went back to the mountain for the opening ceremonies. Kolbi and I bumped into Kaila, who is a former Bellcate teacher, and one of Kolbi’s favorite people. Kaila now works for Special Olympics, and gave Kolbi and I some last minute instructions on what the next few days will look like for us. All delegations participating in Winter Games gathered by their designated delegation sign, in preparation for the parade. Kolbi, being the one Bellcate athlete, walked proudly with his Bellcate sign through all the fans lined up on both sides of the pathway. When “Bellcate School” was announced, Kolbi held his schools sign up and pumped his fist in excitement. It was a very special moment to witness. After opening ceremonies, Kolbi and I got a pizza to go, headed back to our beautiful condo and watched the movie ‘Big Daddy’ before it was time to hit the hay to get ready for his big first day of competition Monday.
Monday morning started with breakfast at the mountain. Kolbi had some pre-race nerves and didn’t eat much. We got the information we needed about the group he would be in, and who his “mountain guides” would be (volunteers that brought the kids up the start line up the mountain.) We found the sign for group 18, and headed over. It just so happened that there were two Bellcate alumni in Kolbi’s group. Corey, who graduated a year before Kolbi’s arrival at Bellcate, and Jesse, who was one of Kolbi’s classmates for a couple years, both were participating in Winter Games. These two were veterans of the event and did a great job in easing Kolbi’s nerves and showing him the ropes of the competition. It was now time for Kolbi to head up the mountain for two preliminary runs to see what division he would be placed in for the medal heat later in the day. Kolbi, who had never done gates before, was nervous but focused. After his first two runs, those nerves had gone away. Kolbi had great times, being 5 seconds faster on his second run. After a break for lunch, we got word that Kolbi had been placed in Division 1 (fastest division) for the rest of the games! Quite an accomplishment to say the least! “For never doing gates before, I was surprised how well I did,” said Kolbi. After my first run, I thought to myself that was pretty easy, and I bet I could go faster on my second run.”
Kolbi headed back up the mountain in the afternoon for his two runs on the slalom course. This was the medal round. Kolbi had two more fantastic runs and was optimistic about what place he come in after all the participants had finished their runs. They lined Kolbi and the rest of his division up on the podium. Kolbi took silver in his first ever snowboarding competition. The sheer joy on his face was worth a million dollars. It was one of the proudest moments as a coach I have ever had, and I know Kolbi was super proud of himself as well.
Later that night, Kolbi and I went to the Killington Grand Hotel for a dinner and dance put on by Special Olympics. We sat with Kaila, and some other Special O staff, including Sue Minter who is new director of Special Olympics Vermont. Kolbi was very polite and proud to talk about his winnings from earlier in the day. While at the dance, Kolbi met back up with his Bellcate alumni friends and met a new friend named Kyle. The boys danced, laughed, and Kolbi showed off his reverse worm to the group! The boys had a great time.
Tuesday morning, the last day of competition started off with Kolbi and I checking out of our condo and heading over to the mountain. Kolbi would have three runs for two different competitions. He met up with his group, said his good mornings to his mountain guides, and headed back up the mountain for what turned out to be a great day of snowboarding. After both heats were done, Kolbi was awarded two more silver medals to add to his collection, finishing the event with 3 silvers! Quite an accomplishment for someone who had never snowboarded gates prior to this event. Kolbi said his final goodbyes to all of his friends he had met, and we left the mountain, but not before taking a picture by the Pico entrance sign of Kolbi with his 3 silver medals hanging around his neck. Way to go Kolbi!
I have personally known Kolbi for about 3 years now, and have seen him grow in so many ways. He has become such a fine young man. I am so proud of the way he not only competed at Pico, but the way he conducted himself and represented his whole Bellcate family. He really was the talk of the event — by the end of it everyone knew who Kolbi was. That is something pretty special, and that is because Kolbi is a very special kid. Congrats Kolbi and I can’t wait to see you at Pico again next year! Go Bulldogs!