Nearly 50 young athletes participated in the 21st annual Orange County Special Olympics ice skating competition Friday.
Some raced around the Huntington Beach rink with great speed. Others required help from coaches to steady them as they competed in shorter and slower-paced races.
Winning didn't seem to be everything to many. Just to get on the ice and be a part of the competition is very important, according to Georgiana Rae, a coach and a student teacher in adaptive physical education at the Jordan Secondary Learning Center in Garden Grove.
Rae said the young competitors exemplify the Special Olympics oath: "Let me win but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
Competition does wonders for the skaters' self-confidence and pride, said Gayle Santiago, special education teacher at Jordan and director of the ice skating competition for the youngsters, all with learning disabilities.
"They love to go home and tell their able-bodied brothers and sisters who don't know how to skate about how well they've done," she said.
Fifteen competitors on Friday will be chosen to take part in the state Special Olympics ice skating competition in Fresno later this month.
Selection is based not just on how they finished in competition, but their attitude, how they get along with others and their behavior, officials said.
Thanh Le, a 10th-grader at La Quinta High School in Westminster, finished first in the initial event of the day, the 10-meter straight race. She has been skating about five years and practices about twice a month at the Side by Side Rink, where Friday's competition was held.
Jason Wisler, 17, a student at Jordan, said he's only started to skate on ice this year. Yet he was an easy winner in the 100-meter speed race. He also is a roller skater and a bicycle racer. But ice skating is his favorite sport, he said.