A NINE-year-old Sheffield boy with Down’s Syndrome has beaten the odds and learnt to ski - and was one of the youngest to compete in a Special Olympics event.
Finlay Smith, from Chapeltown, has been skiing for several years and has now taken part in his first event - the West Midlands Open Regional Ski Championships in Birmingham.
Dad Mark Smith said he, wife Karen, Finlay and Finlay’s older brother Tom, aged 14, go on skiing holidays each year.
He said: “Finlay came with us from a very early age.
“We tried to get him skiing, but he’s got a disability and learning difficulties. His needs were such that his communication was not good enough to work with people who didn’t know him in a ski school.
“But then, on our holiday in April this year, something just clicked and he really progressed.”
The Special Olympics provide year-round sports training and competitions for people with learning disabilities.
But there was no skiing group in the otherwise active Yorkshire and Humberside branch so Mark looked into the possibility of becoming a ski instructor. Now the IT administrator is training to become an adaptive ski instructor, working with people with physical and learning disabilities.
He is trying to get a regional Special Olympics skiing group off the ground.
He said: “The good thing about Special Olympics is it’s open to people of any ability and it’s about realising their own potential, rather than the emphasis being on competition.
“As for Finlay, I really want him to achieve the potential he might have. He’s surpassed my expectations and what he did in Birmingham was just fantastic.
“There have been a few shed tears, from people who know him, about what he has achieved at such a tender age, given the hand he’s been dealt.”
Mark has organised a taster session on November 6, where people can have a go at skiing for free, with one-to-one tuition with trained instructors and an information session.
It will be held at Sno!Zone in Castleford, where Mark works as an instructor, and is open to anyone over the age of eight who has a verified learning disability. Places are limited, so must be booked in advance.
n Contact Mark on firstname.lastname@example.org.