Special Olympics Unified Skiing and Snowboarding Returns to X Games Aspen 2022

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Special Olympics Unified Skiing and Snowboarding Returns to X Games Aspen 2022

Special Olympics Athletes are Paired with their Unified Partners for a Live Streamed Unified Race at X Games Aspen 2022

WHAT:             In 2022, Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding will return for its seventh year at X Games Aspen and Unified Skiing will return for the second year. Teams will be comprised of one professional action sports athlete, including X Games and Olympic medalists, and one Special Olympics action sports athlete for a total of ten, two-person teams in snowboarding and in skiing.

Each of the team members will take one run on each of the two competition courses, with the professional athletes racing against one another and the Special Olympics athletes racing one another. The combined best times of each team will determine the results.

Special Olympics Unified Sports® joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. ESPN is the Global Broadcast Partner of Special Olympics and the Global presenting sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports.


WHEN:             Friday, January 21 at 2:30 p.m. MT


WHERE:          The Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding and Skiing course is located above the start of the Big Air course at X Games Aspen (Buttermilk Mountain).


WATCH:           The event will be streamed live on @XGames TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube


WHO:               Twenty Special Olympics athletes and 20 of the world’s top action sports athletes.


Confirmed Special Olympics and professional action sports athletes competing in Unified Snowboarding include: 

Heather Bean (Parker, Colo.) Jamie Anderson (South Lake Tahoe, Calif.)
·       Participated in snowboarding, gymnastics, figure skating, swimming, softball, bowling and basketball

·       Competed in area, regional and state games in many of these sports

·       Most decorated woman in X Games history with 19 total medals

·       Won Slopestyle and Big Air gold at Aspen 2021

Owns the most Slopestyle gold of any athlete

Cody Field (Centennial, Colo.) Rene Rinnekangas (Iisalmi, Finland)
·       Won three gold medals at the Special Olympics World Winter Games Pyeongchang 2013 and was named Special Olympics Colorado Male Athlete of the Year

·       Works for United Airlines at Denver International Airport as a Special Olympics Ambassador helping passengers find their way


·       Won Snowboard Slopestyle silver in 2019 and bronze in 2021

·       Won Real Snow gold and the fan favorite award

·       Will compete in Big Air, Slopestyle and Knuckle Huck

Mackenzie Beauvais-nikl (Englewood, Colo.) Zeb Powell (Waynesville, N.C.)
·       She has been snowboarding for 10 years

·       She is a Special Olympics Colorado Board Member, a member of our Athlete Leadership Program, and a Fitness Captain.

·       Won gold in Snowboard Knuckle Huck in 2020 as an X Games rookie

·       Likes to Skateboard and Wakeboard

Henry Meece (Portland, Oregon) Jack Mitrani (Long Island, N.Y.)
·       Placed first in Unified Snowboarding at X Games Aspen four times (2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019)

·       Represented Special Olympics USA at the Special Olympics World Winter Games Austria 2017


·       Host of X Games

·       Co-owner and producer of Frendly Gathering music festival

·       Graduate of Stratton Mountain School


Matthew Boyles (Glenwood Springs, Colo.) Dusty Henricksen (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.)
·       Won more than 20 medals competing at area, regional and state games in Colorado

·       Works for Habitat for Humanity

·       Won gold in Snowboard Slopestyle and Knuckle Huck as a rookie in 2021

·       First American to win Snowboard Slopestyle since 2009


Catherine Darrow (Lyons, Colo.) Annika Morgan (Mittenwald, Germany)
·       Attends Front Range College and volunteers for the Autism Society of Boulder County

·       A dedicated student athlete, she has participated in Special Olympics for five years

·       Earned second place in Big Air at the Youth Olympic Winter Games in 2020

·       Will compete in Big Air and Slopestyle

Daina Shilts (Neillsville, Wisc.) Mons Røisland (Høvik, Norway)
·       Was part of the Special Olympics USA Games 2018 TV talent team for ESPN, as the first female with an intellectual disability to serve as an analyst

·       Medaled six times in Unified Snowboarding at X Games Aspen (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020)

·       Won back-to-back Snowboard Slopestyle silver in 2020 and 2021

·       Added Big Air bronze in 2021

Joseph “Joey” Franken (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Chris Klug (Aspen, Colo.)
·       Is a fitness captain for Special Olympics Colorado

·       Volunteers for Tip a Cop, Special Olympics Polar Plunge and SkiMaxx

·       After receiving a liver transplant in 2000, he went on to compete in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games and win a bronze medal in Parallel Giant Slalom

·       Won a bronze medal and lit the torch at the 2002 National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant Games

Charles Gutierrez (Thornton, Colo.) Joey Okesson (Southberry, Connecticut)
·       Competed at the Special Olympics World Games in Alaska (2001) and Japan (2005)

·       Began skiing, but once he saw Snowboarding he’s never stopped

·       Placed fifth at X Games Aspen 2021
Chase Lodder (Salt Lake City, Utah) Darcy Sharpe (Comox, BC, Canada)
·       Competed and medaled in the Special Olympics Winter World Games in Korea in 2013

·       An Eagle Scout who completed an 18-month service mission with his church

·       Won Snowboard Slopestyle and earned silver in Rail Jam in 2020

·       Sister Cassie is a gold medalist in Ski SuperPipe


Confirmed Special Olympics and professional action sports athletes competing in Unified Skiing include:


Amanda Leonard (Aurora, Colo.) Sarah Hoefflin (Geneva, Switzerland)
·       Participates in alpine skiing, aquatics and bowling with Special Olympics – won gold at 2019 USA National Games in swimming

·       Works at the Special Olympics Colorado office once a week


·       Won Ski Big Air gold in 2018, has four total medals, including two Ski Slopestyle silver

·       Sarah Hoefflin was a weekend ski warrior until she graduated from university in 2013 and earning a neuroscience degree


Haldan Pranger (Lakewood, Colo.) Alex Ferreira (Aspen, Colo.)
·       Competes in 13 different sports with Special Olympics, but is most passionate about alpine skiing

·       Part of the Athlete Leadership Program and a Fitness Captain with Special Olympics Colorado

·       Won back-to-back Ski SuperPipe gold medals in 2019 and 2020

·       An Aspen native, Alex graduated from Aspen High School in 2013

Andrew Carlson (Littleton, Colo.) Megan Oldham (Parry Sound, ON, Canada)
·       Was Homecoming King at Arapahoe High School

·       Attended Eastern New Mexico University and received two certifications in Food Service and Child Care

·       Won gold in Ski Big Air at Norway 2020, becoming the first Canadian woman to medal in Ski Big Air

Won silver in Big Air and bronze in Slopestyle at Aspen 2021

Kohlor Von Eschen (Boulder, Colo.) Colby Stevenson (Park City, Utah)
·       Participates in basketball, soccer, flag football, softball and alpine skiing with Special Olympics

·       Recently graduated from the Transitions Program in his local school district and is exploring different jobs experiences

·       Won gold in Ski Slopestyle and Knuckle Huck at Aspen 2020, the first rookie to win Ski Slopestyle

·       Suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2016, won his first World Cup eight months later

Palmer Lyons (Parker, Colo.) Gus Kenworthy (Telluride, Colo.)
·       A member of the Alpine race team at Colorado Mesa University where he is working on a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education

·       Won gold in Special Olympics Unified Skiing X Games Aspen 2020

·       Medaled in all four X Games 2016 events he entered: Slopestyle and SuperPipe silver at Aspen 2016 and Big Air and SuperPipe bronze at X Games Oslo 2016

·       Serves as Shred Hate spokesperson, helping X Games with anti-bullying initiatives

Andie Zitek (Denver, Colo.) Giulia Tanno (Lenzerheide, Switzerland)
·       Has been part of Special Olympics since she was 13 years old, and her brother was her first Special Olympics coach

·       She is a member of the Special Olympics Colorado’s Young Professionals Board and the Athlete’s Input Council for the Program

·       Won two silver and one bronze in Ski Big Air at X Games and one bronze in Sloepstyle

·       The first female skier to land a double cork on a scaffold jump

Adrian Lukens (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Trevor Kennison (Keene, N.H.)
·       Participates in track and field, softball, bowling, alpine skiing and cycling

·       Ran cross-country and track in high school, even during Leukemia treatment

·       Professional  adaptive skier, who also surfs dirt bikes and downhill bikes

Launched off the top cornice at Jackson Hole’s Kings and Queens of Corbet’s competition in 2019

Caroline Willis (Frisco, Colo.) Victoria Arlen (Exeter, N.H.)
·       Started skiing five years ago and absolutely loves it

·       Participated in regional and state skiing competitions for Special Olympics


·       Made her ESPN debut as a features venue reporter at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games

·       Overcame Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis

·       Paralympic gold medalist and three-time silver medalist in swimming

Cameron Cox (Telluride, Colo.) Alex Hall (Park City, Utah)
·       Cameron started skiing in Telluride, Colorado with Team San Juan

·       He has participated in Regional and State competitions for Special Olympics as a skier

·       Earned gold in four different Ski disciplines – Slopestyle, Big Air, Knuckle Huck and Real Ski

·       Competed at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang

Tanner Jadwin (Denver, Colo.) David Wise (Reno, Nev.)
·       Began skiing at 20 years old

·       Participated in regional and state skiing competitions for Special Olympics


·       Husband, father and four-time X Games Aspen SuperPipe champ, Wise is also the 2014 and 2018 Olympic gold medalist in halfpipe

·       Gave his first TEDx talk at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2019 about mental toughness





Grace Coryell                ESPN, 213-405-4402, [email protected]

Danny Chi                    ESPN, 213-405-4400, [email protected]

Megan Gausemel          SOI, 202-570-8628, [email protected]

Grace Coryell

Based out of the LAPC in Los Angeles, Calif., Grace Coryell is manager of communications focusing on X Games and West Coast PR. A native Angelino, Coryell attended the University of Southern California and began working at ESPN in 2008.
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