EUGENE, Ore. - With the Sochi Winter Olympic games in full swing, athletes from Team USA are in the midst of competition. But there are also some local athletes that have been training since last October to go for gold of their own.
It's a beautiful Sunday morning at Willamette Pass. That's where you'll find them - on black diamond runs. You can't miss their bright yellow vests, glowing that much more with the sunshine on their backs. The athletes have been waiting for this moment for months. But you'd never guess they were out of practice. Taking on a sport that's both physically and mentally challenging; dealing with heights and maneuvers on runs only experiences skiers can tackle.
"It's a nice day!" Special Olympic competitor Danny Wells said.
It's when Danny takes his helmet off that you can see he has down syndrome, what some people call a disability. But ask his mother, Special Olympics coach Penny Wells, and she'll tell you they've never focused on what Danny couldn't do. in fact, Danny was on skis before he could even walk - at 15 months.
"We rented the smallest boots and the smallest skis that you could rent and we put him in the boots on a little bit of an incline," Penny said.
Next month, Danny is going for gold. Only that incline is just a little bit higher, at Mount Bachelor, for the Oregon Special Olympic winter games.
"First place! That's it," Danny said. That's what he's going for.
The local group has been dry land training since October, as they waited for enough snow to fall.
"I have on athlete that follows me through the trees in the deep snow," Coach Virgil Cool said.
Coach Virgil Cool has been teaching competitors since 1984. But he's not surprised by their abilities, because he's seen first hand the work that goes into it.
"You know, you work with them until they're confident enough to move up to another level and you push them just a little bit," Cool said.
We strapped our GoPro camera to snowboarder Tony Davis. He said he knows the payoff of hard work.
"At first I was afraid of falling, but not I'm like eh, I fall. I fall'," he said.
But instead of taking a tumble, he rose to the top, taking home gold at the state competition last year.
"It was really exciting," Tony said. "It was just, you know, I don't know how to explain it. It was just awesome."
Awesome must run in the family. Tony's sister Beth, who has autism, made it all the way to the world competition as a snowshoer.
"It was really fun," Beth said. "I got to meet people from all over the world."
But she'd rather talk about her brother and his achievements.
"Yeah he's done a lot, so I'm proud of him," she said.
Assistant coach Michael Clancey said it's easy to get hooked to teaching.
"It's real easy," he said. The athletes are a great, warm, and thankful group of people."
And of course not everyone can win a medal, but the coaches say that's when you really see something special.
"What's even neater is to watch them console someone that didn't get one, you know, athlete to athlete," Clancey said. "They're so supportive."