A young man from southern Vermont got a real thrill Thursday, when he competed in an internationally-broadcast race—while teamed up with an Olympic gold medalist.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Dustin Hollister, 18, of Searsburg, describing his opportunity to represent Vermont at the 2020 X Games in Aspen, Colorado.
Hollister competed in the Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding event, which he had to apply for. The athlete was chosen from a large field of applicants to take part, Special Olympics Vermont said.
“It meant a lot to me, because I’ve always wanted to go to something bigger,” Hollister said in an interview conducted via smartphone video chatting following the race. “It’s great to have the experience to come out West and ride with a couple pros.”
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For the unified competition, Hollister teamed with Olympic medalist Hannah Teter, a native of Mt. Holly, Vermont, who competed in the Olympic Winter Games in 2006, 2010, and 2014.
Teter won gold in 2006, and silver in 2010.
“She’s from Vermont, so we can relate to a couple things,” Hollister said, adding how much he enjoyed spending time with Teter.
Dustin trains with the Adaptive Sports at Mount Snow program and has won medals in other Special Olympics races.
Special Olympics Vermont gives opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to thrive through sport.
Staff members at the non-profit’s South Burlington offices were glued to the action from the competition, which they watched on the X Games YouTube channel.
“It was very cool,” said Kelsey Conway of Special Olympics Vermont. “Inclusion, joy, respect. The things that Special Olympics stands for as a whole, I think you can really see through an event like that.”
“It’s hugely important that our athletes have the opportunity, but also that people without intellectual disability have the opportunity to see inclusion as it happens,” added Missy Shea, the president and CEO of Special Olympics Vermont.
Despite a fall from Dustin in one run, the partnership with Teter managed to produce a fourth-place finish, earning cheers back at home in the Special Olympics Vermont offices.
“It was really fun out there,” Hollister told NECN and NBC10 Boston. “It was great having the competition—it was really close with a lot of them.”
The athlete, who is a student at Northlands Job Corps in Vergennes, added that participating in the event also gave him opportunities to make new friends.
After his time in the international spotlight, Dustin said he’s looking forward to getting back to his favorite Vermont resort, Mount Snow, and to continuing his education in culinary arts.
Hollister added that another fun part of his trip to Aspen was taking his first airplane flight.