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Special Olympians to Represent Kansas - KOAM TV 7

Special Olympians to Represent Kansas

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PITTSBURG, KANSAS -

Ashley Spriggs will have her first shot at winning Olympic gold in 6 months. She trains with the new hope bulldogs alongside Jared Leatherman; also competing. 

"I'm hoping both can compete and become our sixth and seventh world champion," New Hope Services Executive Director, Coach John Lair said. 

Both earned their ticket to the Special Olympics Winter World Games. Both winning individual competitions for snowshoeing. They'll compete in individual sprints at the 2017 games in Austria. Leatherman will also be on the men's relay team. 

"I think their chances are very good," Lair said. "Ashley just comes in and works really hard and is a great athlete. Jared is just one of those guys that works so hard and you cant ask more of the guy."

Wednesday's training is focused on conditioning. It's difficult to prepare for a snowshoeing competition without any snow. New Hope is building a 7 by 90 foot sand pit next to it's training facility specifically for Spriggs and Leatherman to prepare for competition.

"Pushing them to their goals in march. and seeing those big goals come in front of them through exercise and getting that chance to be a world champion is just something that comes full circle," Lair said. 

The training has not only served to improve their chances for gold, but their lives as well. Both athletes deal with intellectual disabilities. Leatherman has intermittent explosive disorder, causing physical and verbal outbursts. The training helps him keep that and his smoking under control. Spriggs has lost more than 100 pounds training. 

"I think that Jared doesn't like to fail. He likes to prove himself to everybody. And you know what, he gets to do that through sports," Lair said. "Ashley's the same way, she just wants acceptance. That's basically what our athletes really want. They just want to be part of the community and accepted for who they really are."

All 3 will head to Vermont in December for a training camp.

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