Every year on the third Sunday of January, people from all around the world come together through sport to celebrate the International Ski and Snowboard Federation’s World Snow Day. World Snow Day uses snow sports such as skiing and snowboarding, to highlight how sport is a powerful way to bring people together as they continue to participate in outdoor athletic activities.
For Special Olympics and its athletes, World Snow Day helps promote inclusion through sport at times of the year when many find it difficult to get out of doors and be active due to the cooler climate. These important opportunities help Special Olympics athletes, coaches and partners stay connected to one another year-round and ensure a fun, competitive time for all.
Special Olympics Pakistan is one of the many Special Olympics Programs around the world celebrating World Snow Day this year and we caught up with SO Pakistan snowshoer, Iqra Akram, and the Special Olympics Pakistan National Sports Director, Farkhanda Jabeen, on their experiences taking part in snow sports.
Iqra Akram, Special Olympics Snowshoer
Why do you enjoy snowshoeing?
I like snowshoeing because I like the feeling of running through the snow. I have gone to Khanaspur for training where I used to train in the morning and evening. I stayed with other athletes which I enjoyed.
How do snow and winter sports help you in other areas of your life outside of sports?
I always get ready to be part of the Winter Camp and training. During the camps, I always get support from my coaches and make friends which helps me gain confidence.
What do you hope to accomplish by competing in snowshoeing?
I want to work hard to build my strength and stamina and improve my skills in racing and snow sports. I also want to meet with friends and make new friends during the snow camps with whom I can play after the training.
Have you competed in other sports with Special Olympics before?
I love running. I have been part of Athletics and Basketball Training and Competitions with Special Olympics Pakistan.
Farkhanda Jabeen, National Sports Director
How do snow sports help your athletes during this time of year?
At Special Olympics Pakistan, we conduct one or two live-in training camps almost every year on snow in northern cities, where winter sports opportunities are abundant during this time of the year. These camps offer rigorous training to our athletes, helping them adapt to the extreme wintery climate and develop their skills in snow-related activities. The unique experience of snow sports also serves as a comprehensive full-body workout allowing athletes to develop their core fitness, balance, and endurance, which are transferable to other athletic disciplines.
In the future, what do you hope to accomplish with your Program in the realm of winter sports?
I am enthusiastic about advancing SO Pakistan's winter sports into the northern region and really growing the winter sports culture there for people with Intellectual Disabilities. Establishing strategic partnerships with federations and local winter sports clubs in those regions will play a crucial role in localizing Special Olympics winter sports opportunities into the mainstream winter sports culture of the country.
We also plan to expand our winter sports to athletes from other regions by organizing national winter sports camps. This will give athletes hailing from areas where winter sports opportunities are limited a platform to showcase their passion and talent.
Why are the Special Olympics Winter Games important?
Special Olympics Winter Games have diversified the scope of Special Olympics sports, making it more inclusive as they offer competition opportunities for sports that are specifically suitable in colder climates. I believe the Winter Games provide a unique global platform for athletes from diverse backgrounds promoting a culture of resilience and inclusion in the context of winter sports and a broader array of athletics disciplines, which goes beyond just competitions.
Special Olympics and the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) are longstanding partners in their collaboration to promote and develop winter sports for people with intellectual disabilities. FIS, in collaboration with Special Olympics, created the Special Olympics 10, which are 10 simple ways to help people when interacting with a person with an intellectual disability while skiing or snowboarding. The Special Olympics 10 are available in multiple languages, sharing tips to ensure all people are included in snow sports.