Nathan Warren of Princeton will have a very special celebration for his 31st birthday on Feb. 5, when he participates in the closing ceremony for the 2013 Special Olympics games in South Korea.
Warren is one of 115 athletes from around the United States chosen to participate in the 2013 Special Olympic, set for Jan. 29 through Feb. 5 in PyeongChang, South Korea. Warren's sport for the competition will be snowshoeing, a sport he's been doing for the past several years through the Bureau County-based Gateway Gators Special Olympics.
In explaining the sport of snowshoeing, Nathan said it's like walking fast in the snow with tennis rackets on your feet.
"Its a race that have so many people in your division, and you have to go against them," Nathan said. "It's fun. I like being outside, and I like being in the snow."
With his Gateway Gators competitions, Nathan's done 50 meters and 200 meter races, but his coach, Phyllis Fargher, said Nathan will be competing the 400 and 800 races at the 2013 Special Olympics in South Korea, with even a relay possibly thrown into the mix.
"Nathan participates in team basketball, athletics, bowling and snowshoe, so he is active all year long. He even participated on our softball team for two years, when we offered that sport, and one year he tried the shot put but didn't really care for it. He is always willing to do what is necessary to make himself a better athlete," Fargher said.
"Nathan loves to meet new people. He will strike up a conversation with a coach or another athlete, just to see what you have been up to. He can talk your ear off for hours on end," she said with a smile. "He loves to try new things. We are so proud that he will be representing the United States in the upcoming 2013 Special Olympics."
Warren became eligible for the 2013 USA Team after winning a gold medal in his division on the state level last February. The winners from each state are put on an eligibility list with the final selections made by the state committee based on what competitions they will bring to the USA Team. For Illinois, the decision was made to enter athletes in the short-distance and long-distance competitions. Warren is the only snowshoer from Illinois chosen for the USA Team.
In addition to snowshoeing, the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games competition will include alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, snowboarding and speedskating, among other sports. The 2013 competition is the 10th Special Olympics World Winter Games, which is held every two years.
To prepare for the world competition, Nathan will join athletes athletes from around the country for a mid-December training session in Lake Placid, N.Y., meeting with the world game coaches and meeting the other team members.
Not only will Nathan get to compete on the world level in snowshoeing, he will also experience his first airplane trips as he goes for training in New York and then flies in January to South Korea.
"But I'm most looking forward to seeing another side of the world and meeting new people," Warren said.
Accompanying Warren on his trip to South Korea will be his mother, Cindy Warren, and his grandmother, Anna Roadhouse.
Though he's very good at snowshoeing, Warren said he also likes other sports, like basketball, track and field events, and bowling. When not enjoying his sports, Warren has worked at Cornbelt Energy in Princeton for the past six years. In his free time, he enjoys playing video games and watching television, especially shows like "Law and Order" and "Bones."
Though he won't be able to accompany his son to South Korea, Randy Warren is an enthusiastic supporter of his son, and he's proud of all his son has accomplished.
When Nathan was born, the doctors didn't give them much hope that Nathan would ever walk or talk, run or play, but his son has proven them so wrong, Randy said.
"For me, to see Nathan persevere all his life, to be the best that he can be, and for him, at this point in his life, to have this crowning accomplishment, it's just really special," Randy said. "He keeps accomplishing and keeps going. Nathan never gives up. It makes me very proud to be his dad."