Tara Lipinsky dominated the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998. She was the youngest individual Gold Medalist ever in Winter Games history, the accomplishment of a lifetime. As she stood on that podium accepting her medal, a young man named Ian, who has Down Syndrome, watched in admiration, hoping that one day he could stand on that podium to accept a medal of his very own.
Ian is now 33 years old and has been making strides, both literally and figuratively, to get closer and closer to his goal. Ian’s mom, Cinde, says, “He has always been goal oriented and had a list of things that he wanted to accomplish.” Once Ian marked theatre off that list of things to try, he decided to move onto the next—ice skating. In 2008, he found a coach and began a sport that ended up turning into a passion. The rest is history.
Ian joined Special Olympics Texas and eventually began practicing and perfecting his technique once a week. In 2013 Ian put in a bid to go to the Winter Games in South Korea but was unfortunately not selected. His mom recalls, “Just like anyone, it rattled him. Watching him process that and the determination that came after that was inspirational.”
Ian decided to take a break from the ice, but after being knocked down he did the only thing he knew how to do. Get back up and try again. “He came out of his apartment and said, ‘I’m ready,’ and I knew exactly what he was talking about,” said Cinde.
Knowing what that loss felt like ended up being fuel to the fire and drove Ian to work even harder. When the 2017 Winter World Games in Austria came around, he knew it was his second chance. When he received his letter confirming that his dream would come true, he said three words: “I did it.”
To get ready for the games, Ian has upped his practices to three hours a day, three times a week. He certainly isn’t going to waste this second chance to represent his country. “The Special Olympics World Games will be fun and exciting. I get to root for other athletes from other cultures,” he said.
Ian is the only Texan representing Team USA in Austria. He looks forward to staying in the Olympic Village with all of the other athletes, and it seems Ian added one last thing to his list of things to accomplish. “I want to learn German.”
When Ian takes to Austria in March of 2017, he hopes to fulfill that dream of standing on the podium to accept his gold medal, just as he watched Tara Lipinksy do in 1998. “If I believe in myself I will be successful with anything in my life.”