World Games Athlete Spotlight: Chris O’Neil
At the age of eight alpine skier Chris O’Neil put on his first pair of skis. He started with an adaptive program at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, MA and loved the sport so much that by middle school he was skiing 3-4 days a week with the Special Olympics Massachusetts Nashoba Shooting Stars ski team. According to O’Neil, “skiing is a sport that makes me feel free when I do it.” After 19 years of practicing and improving, he’ll be taking his skills to Austria to represent the United States at the 2017 Special Olympics World Games in March.
“When I found out I was going to Austria I was so excited. When my parents and sister told me I was so happy I cried. To represent the United States at the Special Olympics World Games makes me feel so proud. I am excited to be a part of the team,” expressed O’Neil. Leading up to his selection O’Neil was working hard to refine his skills. In addition to skiing with his team and coach at Nashoba Shooting Stars three to four days a week, he attended a training camp in June of last year at Mount Hood in Oregon. While at the camp, where they actually skied on a glacier at an 8000 feet elevation, O’Neil worked on a variety of his skiing techniques including speed and agility. “It was fun to ski at a place where there were no trees, we were actually skiing above the tree line,” he noted. He’s also been training hard off his skis by working out in the gym or at home two or more days a week to enhance his cardio, leg strength and agility.
In early December O’Neil joined 200+ members of the Special Olympics US team and coaches at training camp in Killington, Vermont. While at camp he was most excited to meet the 50+ members of the alpine ski team, including athletes, coaches and staff. He hit the slopes every morning to practice with the team and afternoon sessions involved dry land workouts in the health and wellness center. “My favorite thing about training camp was meeting all my teammates. There was also an awesome pep rally with a marching band and speeches congratulating us and wishing us luck in Austria,” he shared.
Chris was featured in a video highlighting the 2017 World Games in Austria produced by Bank of America:
O’Neil is very excited to travel to Austria with his family. Although it’s not his first time out of the country, it will be his first time travelling to Europe. O’Neil is really looking forward to, “sightseeing and trying the food. I would also love to see the place where the Sound of Music was filmed.” But what will make the trip the most special is sharing the experience with his mom, dad and two sisters. “It will be really nice to have them their cheering me on.”
Looking ahead, O’Neil is already setting goals for his World Games experience. “I want to do my best and beat my personal time. I hope that this experience will not only make me a better skier but help me be a more independent person. I feel that after doing this I know I can do anything, including going to another World Games!”