Athlete gains purpose in life through sports Photo: Special Olympics athlete Katya Rodionova and her coach Gennady Bolonov. Photographer: Martha Jo BraycichDuring the winter months Special Olympics cross-country skier Katya Rodionova trains daily with her coach Gennady Bolonov, 47, so she was well prepared to take on the 50 m and 100 m at the national competition in Murmansk held 3-5 March, 2012. Rodinova, 28, lives in an institution in Vladimir in western Russia. “Katya is very sociable, is interested in dance and music, and she has a lot of friends. Still, her life is confined within the institution. That is why events like the Murmansk competition become so important to her,” said Bolonov, a social worker. “Participating in sports and being able to travel and compete, gives Katya a purpose in life,” said Bolonov, who also heads the Special Olympics Vladimir subprogram of 4,000 athletes. “When she goes back to she’ll tell her friends about this experience and they will be happy for her,” he said. During the random draw for team selection for the 2013 Special Olympics Winter Games in Korea, Rodionova was selected as an alternate.