2017 Spirit of Special Olympics Athlete of the Year
Special Olympics Indiana is pleased to announce that Christopher Perdue, of the Ripley-Ohio-Dearborn Counties program, is our 2017 Spirit of Special Olympics Athlete the Year.
Chris is a snowboarder—among the first to take up the sport when it became an official Winter Games event in Indiana and among the best in the years since, winning gold every year since 2014—and in the last year has achieved a great deal through his work on the slopes. In February 2016, he was selected to join Team USA and compete at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, training for 14 months both on and off the slopes for his chance to be among the best of the best.
Training once or twice per week at Perfect North Slopes near his home in southeastern Indiana, Chris spent untold hours refining his craft and learning from his coaches. When his coaches weren’t available, he practiced on his own; and when he couldn’t be out on the slopes, he watched YouTube videos and movies about snowboarding to learn as much as he could. During the offseason, he trained with the local powerlifting coach to improve his leg strength and balance.
In December 2016, Chris traveled to Killington, Vermont to meet and train with Team USA, reaching two more milestones in the process: flying on an airplane and snowboarding on a real mountain for the first time. After impressing the coaches at camp with his skill, positive attitude, and hard work, Chris was nominated to participate in the Unified Giant Slalom event at the 2017 Winter X Games, where he partnered with professional snowboarder Danny Davis to place fifth and learned a great deal in the process.
A focus on lowering his posture to increase speed paid great dividends in Austria, where he took fifth place in the ‘Super G’ event before achieving a personal best time on his first run at the Giant Slalom. On his second run, Chris managed to shed an additional five seconds from his time, vaulting him to the top of the leaderboard and earning him a gold medal on the world stage.
But like so many athletes, Chris was initially motivated to get involved with Special Olympics not so much for the medals, but by a simple desire to “be normal” after years of not being chosen to be part of neighborhood teams. Over the course of the past five years, the high school senior has also competed in basketball, bowling, flag football, powerlifting, and track & field—and he has finally found what he was looking for.
In the past year, Chris has met celebrities and dignitaries including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Mraz, Hannah Teeter, and Second Lady Karen Pence. He has stepped out of his comfort zone to give countless interviews to local media outlets, and has been recognized for his accomplishments in front of crowds both large and small. He has worked hard to raise the necessary funds for his travel through various local events and by participating in two Polar Plunges, creating a great deal of interest in and awareness for the Ripley-Ohio-Dearborn Counties program in the process. He has even gotten his first job, at a local pizzeria, where customers have recognized him and asked him about his journey to World Games.
His achievements have also inspired many of his fellow athletes and given them the courage to try new sports, like snowboarding, or to strive to improve and to work toward their own opportunities to compete on the national or international level one day.
For all these accomplishments and the outstanding character and humility he has shown in reaching new heights, Chris Perdue is our 2017 Spirit of Special Olympics Athlete of the Year.