The events got rolling yesterday with the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Credit: Special Olympics Tennessee

It's always a great time to visit Gatlinburg. This week, however, is a particularly awesome moment for those in the east Tennessee town.

Starting yesterday, and running through January 28th, the Gatlinburg resort Ober Gatlinburg is hosting the 35th annual winter games for Special Olympics Tennessee with 400+ athletes, coaches, and volunteers expected to participate.  The games, open to adults and children with intellectual disabilities, commenced yesterday with the Law Enforcement Torch Run with officers taking the Flame of Hope from the Gatlinburg Welcome Center to the Gatlinburg Convention Center to open up the competition. Following the run, there was also an official Opening Ceremony featuring the Parade of Athletes at the convention center. For the Winter Games, athletes are participating in speed skating, snowboarding & alpine skiing at Ober Gatlinburg, along with a basketball skills event at Rocky Top Sports World, also in Gatlinburg.

“This will be our 35th State Winter Games and our athletes are excited to get on the slopes. The incredible staff at the Gatlinburg Convention Center and Ober Gatlinburg continue to roll out the red carpet for our athletes” said Amy Parker, VP of Marketing and Development for Special Olympics Tennessee in a press release. “Local law enforcement has truly embraced our mission and we are very grateful for their continued support. The officers will run the torch up the mountain and through the streets of Gatlinburg where our athletes will eagerly await the arrival of the Flame of Hope,” she added in the same media statement prior to the games getting underway.

These men and women, of course, aren't just an inspiration to their peers, but to all of us. “These athletes have trained, practiced and conditioned to compete in the games. Not only are they strong in competition but even stronger in spirit and show us all the meaning of quality sportsmanship” said Victoria Mehren, Director of Competitions for Special Olympics Tennessee.

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If you're in the Gatlinburg area, be sure to head over to Ober Gatlinburg and cheer these incredible competitors on. We know these athletes will lace up their skates, get out there and their best—just like they inspire us to do.