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Special Olympians Hit the Slopes on Granite PeakSubmitted: 01/20/2013
Story By Lyndsey Stemm

Special Olympians Hit the Slopes on Granite Peak
WAUSAU - The weather didn't cooperate this weekend for the Special Olympics Wisconsin Winter Games in Wausau.

Three hundred athletes were expected for the event Saturday. The snowshoe and cross country ski events had to be canceled due to lack of snow.

But 35 competitors still got to hit the slopes at Granite Peak for snowboarding and alpine skiing.

One of the snowboarders competing Saturday may have been even more excited for another event coming up.

Dana Shilts from Neillsville, Wisconsin will travel to South Korea to compete for Team USA in the Special Olympics.

"This is my first time competing in a world games. I'm very excited. My number one supporter is coming with me, so I'm very excited," says Shilts, who is taking her mother with her to South Korea.

Three Wisconsin athletes made Team USA. Jason Suino from Hayward will compete in cross country, and Alexander Guild from De Pere will snowshoe.

Organizers say these athletes are what make volunteering worth it.

"The athletes is Special Olympics represent probably the truest example of sports; people who are in this just for the pure enjoyment of being in sports. We don't have the types of sportsmanship issues that a lot of other organizations have. It's just when you see the difference it makes in an athlete's life; not just the joy of competing and getting an award, but what they're able to accomplish, and what they're able to do," says Bob Whitehead.

Team USA leaves for South Korea this Wednesday.

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PARK FALLS - The thousands of lakes in the Northwoods make it a popular place for seaplane pilots.

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EAGLE RIVER - Blink and you might miss him.  Patrik Sandell tends to understate things, but flying around on a frozen lake, sometimes at 100 miles per hour, is simply "normal" for him.

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Sandell learned to drive race cars under similar conditions as a youngster in Sweden.  The 35-year-old joined Subaru Rally Team USA and wanted to bring his ice driving experience to the states.  The racing style means drifting a car at high speeds through a curvy ice track.

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RHINELANDER - A new restaurant opened in Rhinelander, on Friday.

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MERRILL - Merrill went without a homeless shelter for the last two winters. 

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MINOCQUA - Every four years, winter sports gain popularity during the Olympics. For two weeks, athletes show the world what they can do. The skaters from the Lakeland Figure Skating Club aren't in the Olympics, but they've spent months perfecting their routines for a showcase this weekend. 

Ice skating has been a lifelong passion for Raven Carufel. 

"I originally saw the Disney movie Ice Princess and my parents got me a pair of skates for Christmas and it's been history since then," said 16-year-old Carufel. 

Now, she skates at the Lakeland Hawks Ice Arena to improving her skills and move up levels. Advancing is a big part of the sport. But skating also serves as a stress reliever. 

"I feel so confident when I'm on the ice it's kind of a release for everything in life," said Carufel. 

Carufel and the other skaters are preparing for the Lakeland Figure Skating Club's Ice Show this weekend.
Skaters of all ages and skills levels show off their routines.

"This is the only show I do out of the year, otherwise its mostly training for competing," said 17-year-old Lainie Kuckkahn. 

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"My favorite skater is Evgenia from Russia," said Carufel. 

"I've always really liked Mirai Nagasu, so I was really happy when she landed her triple axel this year in competition."

Watching their favorite athletes on TV gives young skaters some extra motivation to keep getting better.
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"It makes me feel good because sometimes I want to be in the Olympics. I kind of imagine me and my group being in the Olympics having just fun," said eight-year-old Addison Nelson. 

The shows will be held on Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Lakeland Hawks Ice Arena in Minocqua. 

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