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      Athletes fill the dome for Special Olympics

      The 27th Annual Winter Games for Special Olympic athletes continued with an opening ceremony at the Superior Dome in Marquette.

      More than a hundred Special Olympic athletes from five different U.P. areas marched in the parade of athletes. Following the parade, the Olympic flame was lit.

      "I've been doing it for many years. I like coming here enjoying all the people," said Fred Broemer, competitor in Physical Fitness category.

      The fun started Friday at Marquette Mountain with the Alpine and Snowboard competition followed by a dance at the Holiday Inn.

      On Saturday, athletes competed in either snowshoeing, cross country skiing or physical fitness. Some participants spend months training for this day.

      "Well, I practice three, four times a week. I practice my sit-ups and push-ups and I time myself for a minute to see how many I can actually do. I improve every time I do it," said Ted Ketola, competitor in Physical Fitness category.

      Cheering them on through every round, lap, and heat were NMU athletes from seven different teams.

      "I know they can't always participate in the sports with all of us athletes, and I think this is a good way for them to come meet us. And we get to hang out with them so they feel included and included in the University," said Natalie Yeck, NMU Soccer athlete.

      However, for many Special Olympians having the support of players from NMU means they are recognized as a fellow athlete.

      "All the coaches and it's just wonderful," said Christina Paquin, competitor in Cross Country category.

      The Special Olympics not only provides a venue for people with intellectual disabilities to compete in sports, it's also a social outlet. It helps athletes become more confident that they, too, can play sports.

      "It is really fun. The excitement and the thrill of getting a medal. Just achieving something with their peers," said Tim Paradowski, parent.

      "I think with the sharing, hear about different people and what they do," said Jason Paradowski, competitor in Physical Fitness.