Bio: Shilts at World Games (Gold Medals - 2017)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Shilts, Teter, Jodarski, Meurett, Glaze

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 4/05/2017

Shilts at World Games (Gold Medals – March 2017)

Shilts Earns Gold medals at World Games

By Todd Schmidt

Daina Shilts (front center) and her snowboarding partner Hanna Teter (front, right) celebrate their gold medals with a group of athletes at the recently concluded Special Olympics World Games in Austria. (Contributed photos)

Daina Shilts, 26, of Neillsville earned multiple gold medals at the recently concluded Special Olympics (SO) World Winter Games in Austria.

Daina took first place with her partner Hannah Teter in Unified Snowboarding and blew away the competition in the Super Giant Slalom and the Giant Slalom. Her time of 55.40 in the Super Giant Slalom was the fastest posted by any female or male athlete under 1 minute.

Daina and her mother Jan visited The Press office last week to recap the whirlwind of events at the World Winter Games. Jan, her husband Leonard, two of Daina’s sisters, and their spouses, and a cousin, Faith, 15, were there at the bottom of Hochwurzen Mountain along with about 10,000 other fans to root for the SO athletes during the competition.

Daina was especially proud of her effort in the Super Giant Slalom.

“It was one of the best runs of my life,” she said. “I kissed my mom and then did an interview on ESPN for the whole world to see. When I’m snowboarding, it gives me a free feeling. I feel free from judgement, and free from people saying I can’t do things.”

Daina’s performance at the World Games was an impressive follow-up to her finish at the SO 2017 gold medals X-Games in Aspen, CO, where she and Teter teamed up to earn a silver medal in Unified Snowboarding.

She has collected four SO gold medals, with her three-gold medal performance in Austria and the gold medal she won at the 2013 SO World Games in South Korea.

Daina credits her success to many hours of snowboarding practice at Bruce Mound Winter Sports Area and Granite Peak Ski Area, and to the dedication of coaches Sue Jodarski, Steve Meurett, and Dean Glaze.

“She works so hard to accomplish what she wants to accomplish,” Jodarski said. “I was at the top of the mountain for some of her runs and I had never seen her so nervous, but she was very determined. She has come so far in the past year. I’m not at all surprised to see her success.”

Jodarski was her traveling companion. Glaze was unable to attend the World Games, but Daina said he was there in spirit.

“He waxed and prepped my snowboard,” Daina said. “He put a stickie note on the front that said, ‘this part of the board goes down the hill first.’ I knew coach was with me. It calmed me down and made me smile.”

Glaze said, Daina is an amazing person who exemplifies courage and hope in the face of a disability.

‘Daina uses her platform to share the importance of playing Unified and living Unified,” Glaze said. “Special Olympics is really encouraging people from all walks of life to include others with and without disabilities in all aspects of their daily lives.”

Daina and nearly 3,000 SO athletes from 110 countries joined together to compete at the World Games.

Her travel itinerary included a flight from Madison to Washington, DC, followed by an 8-hour flight to Vienna, Austria. The group received a huge sendoff in Washington, which featured polka and bagpipe music and several guest speakers.

They were greeted warmly in Austria. Tours were enjoyed of castles and a chocolate factory. Then it was time to pack up for a 3-hour bus trip to the completion site.

The weather was warm and rainy much of the week for practice and the World Games competition.

“It was hot and humid,” Daina said. “We were just thankful there was a little snow. The course was in rough shape, and we had to share it with the skiers. At times, we were like wet rats. We had to walk through a foot of slush to get to the course.”

When race time came, Daina was careful to do what her coach said about staying inside the pylons and using her legs as springs.

After the week of competition, the Shilts family toured the area and walked across the second highest suspension bridge in the world.

The closing ceremony featured fireworks, balloons, music, and an inspirational speech by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The trip home was routed through New York and North Carolina, and featured five airplane transfers. Daina admitted having travel lag, but that didn’t prevent her from gushing about her experience.

“It was by far the most challenging course,” she said. “I just feel pure happiness because I did the best I could. I trained all year for what I just did. I am very satisfied with the way things turned out. I don’t think I came back to reality until the plane trip was over.”

Daina plans to participate in the SO Track and Field Games this summer in Merrill and Stevens Point. She will concentrate on the 200m dash, long jump, and the 4x100m relay.

She has been doing some speaking at high schools and other meetings. Daina said she wouldn’t be the person she is today without Special Olympics.

“I was able to come out of my shell,” she said. “I realized it’s OK to be different. Special Olympics involves all kids in all walks of life.”

“I’m not on the sidelines anymore,” she added. “Inclusion is the world for me. “I’m never going to let my disability define me.”

A cake and ice cream social and celebration of Daina’s accomplishments at the World Winter Games is open to the community Saturday, Apr. 8, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Strike Time Lanes in Neillsville.



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