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March 12, 2013

Special Olympics head ref inspired by competitors

PAUL SMITHS — Paul Smith’s College Athletic Director Jim Tucker has gained an international reputation as head referee for the Special Olympics.

Born and raised on the well-known Tucker’s Farm in Gabriels, where potatoes are grown, his affiliation with the World Winter Special Olympics began close to home.

But it has taken him the world over.

He recently returned from a week-long post as head referee for the World Winter Special Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

STUDENT VOLUNTEERS

The games were held at a location about 2,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by mountains.

“As officials, we stayed at Dragon Valley Hotel, directly at the base of YongPyong Ski Resort,” Tucker said.

This was his second round as head ref for Special Olympics competition; the first was in 2009 at McCall, Idaho.

His affiliation with the organization and winter sport goes back more than 15 years.

“I brought the Winter Special Olympics to Paul Smith’s College in 1997 (with events in snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and floor hockey), and I usually get somewhere between 30 and 50 Paul Smith’s student volunteers.

“I believe it is really important for our young — and not so young — people to give back.”

BARRIERS REMOVED

Special Olympics is geared specifically for kids and adults with intellectual disabilities; the competitors, Tucker said, have inspired him to increase his involvement.

“Working with so many athletes from various parts of the world — all with different ideologies, religious and political backgrounds — all of these barriers seem to be removed with the World Winter Special Olympic athletes.”

Officiating in Idaho, he lived at the same resort as the snowshoe athletes.

“We were able to eat breakfast and dinner with the athletes and coaches. After dinner, DJs from the local area would provide music and dancing at the resort.”

The athletes had a great time, uncomplicated by politics or encumbered by national pride or prejudice.

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