COLORADO SPRINGS — The 2021 Polar Plunge is taking place this weekend, Saturday April 24. All the money raised at the event will benefit nearly 6,000 special Olympics athletes in the Pikes Peak region.
Among them are the 200 athletes who are part of track and field teams in the area. Their season kicked off in April, and they practice two days a week.
News5 spoke to a few athletes and the coach about what this upcoming weekend means to them.
"The phrase that was coined, FDA, for da athletes," said Karen Egan, a special Olympics team coordinator of four years. "It's kind of like the 'pebble in the pond' effect where you start with the athlete, and it just kind of goes beyond to families, to their extended family, to their friends, to the community and so forth. That's what I think is the awesome part of how the polar plunge works because it's really, really about the athletes."
Special Olympics is a nonprofit that provides free exercise and sports for athletes with disabilities.
There are more than 20 sports to participate in, like swimming, soccer, golf, and tennis. Sports are offered year-round. It costs about $200 for one athlete to participate in three sports a year, which many of the athletes do.
"My favorite part is making friends, and my favorite part is running and playing," said Cyrus Prater, 9 years old. "Before COVID-19 started, I used to do basketball and I was pretty good at it."
Meanwhile, Egan says the most rewarding part of the job is knowing it's a marathon, not a sprint, for many of the athletes.
"I think what I really like is to transition our athletes who started with us as four and five-year-old's, and graduating them to a competitive model. It's really awesome to see that growth and to witness that," said Egan.
For more information about Special Olympics or the Polar Plunge, click here.