It was a cold, blustery day the first time Ben Norris and his identical twin brother Josh went skiing. His father, Stan Norris, was convinced that the boys would hate it, and never want to come back. Ten years later, his father has been proven wrong.
Ben Norris, an employee at Turner Place with an intellectual disability, recently took home the gold medal in the Special Olympics in the Super G event, a type of Alpine skiing. He had a winning time of 49 seconds.
The Super G is a course that focuses on speed, compared to events like the slalom, which focus on technicalities. Norris competed in three different events in PyeongChang, South Korea, which hosted the events for the first time.
Ben admits to having a little bit of nerves going into the competition, but after winning the gold medal, he started to relax and have fun.
The Special Olympics is the second largest sporting event in the world, with almost 2,400 competitors from 113 countires. Team USA has 151 members competing.
“The opening ceremony was my favorite part,” Norris said.
His brother Josh, is also involved in the Special Olympics, and has plans to compete in the 2015 Summer Special Olympics in Los Angeles in long distance running.
“My biggest fan, other then my mom and dad, is my brother Josh,” Norris said.
“We are very pleased with Ben and what he’s done," his mother, B.J. Norris said. "We love that this has brought attention to the Special Olympics in the area.”
The Norris’ have always been an active family. Skiing, track, bowling and basketball are just a few of the sports Ben and Josh participate in.
The boys have been involved with the Special Olympics since they were seven years old. The family used to live in Alexandria, Va. and was responsible for helping start the organization in the region. Before, the Special Olympics didn’t exist in the area.
“We got some of the other families together and started a recreational basketball program,” said Stan Norris, Ben and Josh's father.
Once they started the recreational program, the Special Olympics contacted them and wanted to start a chapter in the area.
The family moved to Blacksburg when the boys were still young, and since then, they have been working to build a strong Special Olympics community in the New River Valley. Now with 500 participants, the Norris family knows that there are more kids in the valley that would benefit from getting involved with the organization.
“We tend to get a lot of kids that are entering adulthood that come and join the organization," Stan Norris said. "But we would like to start building programs that are targeted to younger kids, even kids who are just learning to use motor control."
Stan Norris has been coaching the boys in skiing for the past 10 years, also taking the time to become a certified adaptive skiing instructor. An adaptive instructor is one that is specially trained to work with disabled participants, including paraplegics and wounded soldiers.
“Ben is great about following and taking direction,” Stan Norris said.
With his mom, dad and twin brother for support, Ben had an overall exciting trip to South Korea, and, although he didn’t like the food, a highlight of the experience for him was getting to meet the famous basketball player Yao Ming.
After being back for only two weeks, Ben and his family already have plans to hit the slopes and go skiing next weekend.