VERNON HILLS, Ill. - Winter sports are in the spotlight thanks to the Pyeongchang Olympics - but Team USA isn't the only group lacing up their skates.
Figure skaters with special needs competed in the inaugural Skating Championships Invitational Saturday at Glacier Ice Arena in Vernon Hills.
The event was organized by the Northwest Special Recreation Association.
"Most of these athletes train year round, put a lot of time into this," said JoAnn Snyder of the Northwest Special Recreation Association. "And they only have two competitions, so we are looking to grow that and we are looking to make that available throughout Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana."
When Special Olympics dropped their figure skating programs, many of these skaters were left in a vacuum. Organized events like this one help competitors build their self-esteem.
Special Olympics representative Chris Winston said that participation in the event had fallen so low that some competitors were alone in their categories.
"Sometimes I get I feel a little nervous, but I was really excited about the competition," said competitor Grace Hsieh.
Kevan McGarrigle, 16, said he is ready to compete in his first competition.
"I was practicing backwards two foot glides or swizzles," McGarrigle said. "I have to do five to six marches backwards on the ice."
For more information on Northwest Special Recreation Association, visit: http://www.nwsra.org/ns/