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Skier back from Austria with a gold
Chris Westcott of Albany won gold at the Special Olympics Winter Games in Austria in March.

Amy Baker

Chris Westcott of Albany won gold at the Special Olympics Winter Games in Austria in March.

He’d hoped for a medal but didn’t think he’d win gold.

When the “fitness mad” skier and karate practitioner Chris Westcott won gold, it was not only his first time competing at the Special Olympics World Winter Games but also his first time to Schladming in Austria, where they were held.

The 23-year-old won first in intermediate Giant Slalom and fourth in intermediate Super G during the competition from March 14-25.

“I was surprised to get the gold,” he says. “It was a really, really proud moment. It’s hard to believe sometimes.”

READ MORE: Special Olympics athletes become ambassadors for their organisation

Athletes were awarded their medals at a ceremony in the Schladming’s town centre.

Nearly 2700 competitors from 107 countries, including Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East participated.

Chris has been skiing with Special Olympics for six years and says one of the highlights of training with the team is going to an annual snow camp down in Cardrona.

The Albany resident began competing at a regional level around three years ago and trains weekly in the intermediate section at Snow Planet.

He also does Fushin Ryu karate at a North Shore dojo and says fortnightly sessions with personal trainer at his dojo’s gym were also particularly useful in building up strength.

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His personal trainer also helped with mental preparation, in terms of coping with the psychological aspects of competing.

Chris’s dad and sister are also involved with the Special Olympics, with his dad, Steve, having been a volunteer for the past 10 years.

Steve says everyone at Special Olympics feels part of a community because they have something in common.

“It doesn’t matter where people come from in the world… it’s like a giant community.”

Chris says his trip highlights were being with other athletes and skiing on different mountains.

“Being in a different country and competing in the games, which was really good.”

He hopes to compete again at another winter games, which will be hosted in Canada in 2020.

Special Olympics International was founded in 1968 and is a the biggest international sport movement to promote acceptance and inclusion regardless of ability or disability.

The 2017 Winter Games were the largest humanitarian event for the year.

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