Athlete Profile – Luke Belt
The Special Olympics Vermont Winter Games takes place each year in early March. This year, Luke Belt made his first appearance at the Winter Games and despite being the youngest athlete to participate, his outstanding skiing performance landed him a spot on the podium.
Belt began skiing shortly after he learned how to walk. His mom worked as an adaptive ski instructor and started teaching Luke how to ski when he was 3. It’s evident that his interest and passion for the sport sprouted from an early age.
Two years after Belt began skiing, he graduated to Smugglers Notch where he entered into the Smugglers Notch Adaptive Program (SNAP). Belt learned that Smuggs was sending a team to the 2016 Special Olympics Vermont Winter Games. He was eager to attend and compete. Belt and his coach began practicing non-stop. Whether it was down pouring or clear skies, Belt was constantly on the hill improving on his skills.
Belt didn’t know what to expect when he walked into the crowded lodge at the Suicide Six Ski Area. The initial feeling of unease soon faded as he made friends and began immersing himself in the inclusive and friendly environment. He realized that he could be himself without feeling uncomfortable or judged.
On the ski hill, Belt and his new friends began to compete and encourage one another to try his/her best. Belt enjoyed the ski races so much so that when he finished a race, he continued onto the lower course that was designated for a different group of athletes. He simply couldn’t get enough.
After a day of nonstop competition, Belt’s training and efforts paid off. He earned a silver medal for recording one of the fastest runs on the hill; not bad for first time competitor!
This year’s 2016 Special Olympics Vermont Winter Games was a first time experience for Belt as well as his parents. “As parents of the youngest participant and our first time being exposed to the Special Olympics, it was a great experience. We were very impressed by the high standard the participants were held to,” said the father of Belt.
Belt is looking forward to participating in the 2017 Special Olympics Vermont Winter Games. He hopes to make new friends and add more hardware to his collection of medals.
-Tucker Van Dusen Champlain College ’16