Two Quad-City athletes will compete in snowshoeing in the Special Olympics World Games in January because of what they did on a grassy field.
Debbie McDaniel, 37, and Stuart Brown, 33, both of Davenport, will each compete in three events in Pyeongchang, South Korea. They competed in snowshoeing events at the Special Olympics State Winter Games in Dubuque in January. Because of the mild winter, there was no snow, so snowshoe races were run on grass.
McDaniel and Brown, clients of New Choices Inc., won events in Dubuque, earning the opportunity to be included in a lottery of athletes to complete in the World Games.
“My coach said it is a one-in-a-million shot to get picked when they submitted my name,” McDaniel said. “I got picked, and I am so excited.”
While more low-key, Brown is also thrilled at the opportunity to compete in South Korea.
“I’m shocked,” he said. “I’ve never been out of the country.”
Pyeongchang is located about 110 miles east of Seoul. It will host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
McDaniel works at Best Buy in Davenport as a warehouse assistant. She also bowls on a team with her boyfriend, averaging in the 120s.
Brown does janitorial work for New Choices but hopes to get a new job soon. He plays basketball and has competed in weightlifting, cycling and track and field.
The athletes’ travels, which include training camp next month at Lake Placid, N.Y., will include their first flights. They leave for South Korea on Jan. 24 and return to Iowa on Feb. 7.
With no snow on the ground, they are doing weight training to prepare for competition.
“It is hard, but you get used to the workout,” McDaniel said.
Along with the training camp, McDaniel and Brown will get to compete in the Iowa Winter Games in January before they leave for South Korea.
Both athletes complimented their coach, Marie Randol, for getting them to the World Games.
“She is the best coach ever,” McDaniel said.
Randol helped coach another Special Olympics athlete, Ken Essex Jr., get to the World Winter Games in snowshoeing in 2009 in Idaho, where he won a silver medal.
“I’ve had pretty good luck getting my athletes selected,” Randol said.
The office of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin stepped in to help McDaniel, who had trouble getting a passport because of incomplete information on her birth certificate. Now, she will celebrate her 38th birthday in Asia.
“I’m going to have a birthday party and welcome home party when I get back,” she said. “Just think how many presents I’m going to have.”