Athletes compete in New Jersey Winter Special Olympics

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VERNON -

Hundreds of athletes completed in the New Jersey Winter Special Olympics Tuesday.

The event is held every year at the Mountain Creek Resort in Vernon. The athletes face the challenges of intellectual disabilities, but they are taught to focus on their skills in their chosen sport. The Special Olympics’ motto is “Be brave in the attempt.”

Nasir Watkins, 14, only took up the sport of snowshoeing last year, but he has already taken home a gold medal.

“It’s not really that heard if you think about it,” he says. “All you do is put the shoes on and run.”

More than 250 athletes compete in a range of sports including skiing, figure skating, floor hockey and volleyball.

“My legs get a little tired. But then I’m fine. They heal quickly,” says athlete Michael Shimabukuro.

The event has been held at Mountain Creek for the last 40 years. Tuesday’s event marked the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics as a global organization.

“We have so many volunteers and families that have been with us for 35 or 40 of the 50 years,” says Special Olympics director Heather Anderson.

Special Olympics New Jersey will hold its Polar Bear Plunge in Seaside Heights on Saturday, Feb. 24.

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