A veteran Rim Country athlete is one of 20 from Arizona to qualify for the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
Christine Sexton will travel with the state team Feb. 5 to Sun Valley, Idaho where she will compete in the SO figure skating championships. In all, a 339-member American contingent is entered, along with 3,000 other athletes from 85 countries in seven Olympic-type sports.
None is more proud of Sexton than longtime Northern Gila County Special Olympics coach and coordinator Becky Derwort.
“She is a very dedicated athlete and it is such an honor to be chosen to go the World Games” Derwort said. “She is very deserving.”
In preparing for the figure skating competition, Sexton travels once a week to Phoenix where she practices in the Phoenix Coyotes rink under the watchful eye of a private coach.
Sexton, formerly Christine Wiley, has been participating in Special Olympics for a decade and has been a frequent medal winner in both winter and summer games.
The Arizona team will also feature a male figure skater from Show Low, cross-country and Alpine skiers and a Unified Floor Hockey Team.
The UFHT is made up of both intellectually disabled athletes and those who do not have a disability. They are called Unified Partners, a program that Derwort began in Payson last spring.
Tom Fraker, CEO of Special Olympics Arizona, said he was elated that 20 state athletes were chosen to be members of Team USA.
“This is an amazing once in a lifetime experience for them,” he said.
“Regardless of where the competition is, there is never a cost to the athlete.”
Special Olympics Arizona is a year-round program of sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. More than 11,000 athletes throughout the state compete in 25 Olympic-type sports.