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Special Olympics Winter Games return to Iowa

151 athletes will compete in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

GRIMES, Iowa — You don't have to go all the way to Beijing to get into the competitive spirit this season—the Special Olympics Winter Games are back in Iowa after a pandemic hiatus.

For Britt Sandahl, the chance to strap on her show shoes is a welcome one. She's getting some final prep in before the winter games start up next week. By now, competing is second nature.

"I'm actually a 36-year veteran," Sandahl said. "I was introduced to Special Olympics by my middle school teacher."

This year will be the 35th edition of the games in Iowa. It's also the first multi-sport state championship that Special Olympics Iowa has been able to host in two years. With 151 athletes competing in the coming days, the games are a chance to reconnect with friends across the state.

"A lot of us do multiple sports and multiple things. And we get to know each other. And we get to be family. We do check in each other, especially during the pandemic," Sandahl said.

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Over 14,000 Iowans compete in the games every year. And although getting to the top of the winner's podium feels great—it's not what keeps athletes like Sandahl coming back, year after year.

"There's not one specific thing that I'm looking for. And just I think just seeing my friends is probably the most I'm looking forward to," Sandahl said.

The Special Olympics Winter games kick off Monday at 10 a.m. in Dubuque and run through Tuesday. The games will be open to the public, and if you're looking to get involved with the Special Olympics Iowa at any time of the year, you can find a list of volunteer opportunities here.

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