Special Olympics athlete Kathy Rose of Kalispell gives an insider tip to winning a gold medal in snowshoeing:
“Pretend a bear is chasing you,” she said with a laugh.
After months of training, Rose and Dan Hazen of Great Falls will be among 151 athletes on Team USA at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Hazen will compete in advanced alpine skiing while Rose runs the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4-by-100-meter relay snowshoe races.
They will join more than 3,000 athletes from 112 countries for games that begin Jan. 29 and continue through Feb. 5. Rose, 55, takes off Thursday from Great Falls, flies to Atlanta and then on to South Korea.
On Monday, she said she felt confident that she would hold her own on the world Special Olympics stage.
“I’m hoping for a gold medal,” Rose said. “I’m in good shape”
Ray Mitchell, her coach for the Kalispell Krushers team, agreed. He said Rose has been training in multiple Special Olympic events since the team was formed with seven athletes seven years ago.
“Kathy is one of my premier, most dedicated athletes,” he said. “She competes in something pretty much year-round.”
Rose won the right to represent Montana in the world games through a combination of skill and luck. By winning a gold medal in snowshoeing at the 2012 Special Olympics Montana Winter Games, her name went into a hat for a drawing that filled the two places reserved for Montana on Team USA for the world winter games.
It was a moment she will never forget.
“I started crying when they told me I was going to Korea,” Rose recalled.
She is one of 17 snowshoeing competitors on Team USA. Nolan Taylor, training and competition manager for Special Olympics Montana, said Rose worked hard, training both with Mitchell and world winter games coach Jenny Chase of Colorado.
“She has been in touch with her for the last six months but worked with her primarily at the training camp at Lake Placid, New York,” Taylor said.
As a sport manager with the alpine snowboard team, he also traveled to Lake Placid for the week of training in December. Taylor said Rose put maximum effort into that opportunity.
“She’s super-positive, super-energetic and it was a real treat to be able to hang around with her that week,” he said.
According to Taylor, Chase created a season plan with dry land training for Rose to follow to prepare for the world games. She then worked with her at Lake Placid, which Rose said was very helpful and a lot of fun.
“I also went shopping and sightseeing,” she said.
After the training camp, Rose continued working out with the 11 other snowshoe athletes on the Kalispell Krushers. Mitchell said she and her teammates train an hour every week at Peterson Elementary School.
“We do some stretches,” he said. “Then we put on the snowshoes and we run in the snowshoes and do the relay races and time them. We do time trials every week.”
Only a few weeks after Rose returns from the world games, she and 29 other athletes will put on their orange-and-blue Kalispell Krusher uniforms to take on the statewide competition Feb. 24-26 at the Special Olympics Montana Winter Games at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
“Our slogan is ‘Opening eyes, crushing the boundaries,’” Mitchell said. “It’s on the back of our coats — big eyeballs and a little guy crushing boundaries.”
He said he is excited and expecting great things from the whole team this year. The Krushers have some excellent runners, Mitchell said.
He asks the public to support Special Olympics Montana by purchasing raffle tickets for a new Chevy pickup auctioned off at the summer games. People may buy them at any Town Pump for $5.
“It’s our major fundraiser and we really need it,” he said.
People may learn other ways to support Special Olympics at the websites www.somt.org and www.specialolympicsteamusa.org. Local, state and national organizations depend on donations and volunteers to keep providing opportunities for athletes such as Rose to have their moment in the spotlight.
Mitchell expects her to make him, her team and her community proud.
“I think she will represent Team USA really well in Korea,” he said. “She’s very dedicated to her sport and trained hard. She’s also a very nice lady.”
A resident of Kalispell for 10 years, Rose has a sister, Cindy Hindsley, who lives in Columbia Falls.
Reporter Candace Chase may be reached at 758-4436 or by email at email@example.com.