Freshman earns gold medal at Special Olympics

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”courtesy Mary Reynders” align=”alignright” width=”206″][/media-credit]

Freshman Rebecca Reynders skates at the Special Olympics Winter Games, which took place Saturday, March 3 and Sunday, March 4.

by David Kwartler

At the Special Olympics Winter Games on Saturday, March 3 and Sunday, March 4, freshman Rebecca Reynders brought home a gold medal in figure skating.

Last year, she also won a gold medal in figure skating. In addition, over the last two years, Reynders has won a total of seven gold medals and two silver medals in the Special Olympic Summer Games.

The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization that provides year-round training and athletic competitions for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them an opportunity to develop personal fitness and display their skills with courage and dedication, according to Reynder’s mother Mary Reynders.

Rebecca began skating at the age of six. She learned basic skating skills in through the Newton Youth Hockey Learn to Skate program.

“Rebecca got her start skating to music. Rebecca loves music and the idea of skating to music was what really made Rebecca happy on the ice,” said Ms. Reynders.

In late 2010, as part of the Special Olympics’ first Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day, Rebecca was invited to skate with Michelle Kwan, a two-time Olympic medalist and a five-time world champion figure skater.

This was “a great honor” for Rebecca, according to Ms. Reynders. She met other Special Olympics athletes at the event. “One of the coaches saw Rebecca skate, and suggested that she compete in the Special Olympic Winter Games,” she said.

To prepare for the games, Rebecca learned a programmed routine and trained hard, practicing as much as she could, according to Mary Reynders. “There are specific skating elements that are required to be in a free skate program. Then, Rebecca had to put program together and memorize everything, making it fit perfectly to the timing of the music,” said Ms. Reynders.

Mary Reynders described how proud she felt as she watched her daughter on the rink. “Getting to skate her program to music in front of an audience is pretty special,” said Ms. Reynders. “To get out there in the middle of this huge rink all by herself and express her love of skating to music is an amazing experience to watch.”

When Rebecca was called to the podium to accept her gold medal, “the expression on her face when they were putting the medal around her neck said it all. As parents, we’ve never seen her look happier,” said Ms. Reynders.

For the Summer Games, which will be Friday, June 15 through Sunday, June 17 at Harvard University, Rebecca has already begun practicing swimming. She will compete in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle, backstroke and 50-meter freestyle relay, according to Ms. Reynders.