Charleston alpine skier Katie Smith returned from the 2013 Special Olympics Winter Games in South Korea with two bronze medals. And of course, being the gregarious person she is, she managed to get herself interviewed by a Polish television station while there.
Katie has Down syndrome and won her first bronze medal on the first day of competing in the giant slalom event.
Later that day, she and her parents, Rick and Kathy Smith, went to a traditional Korean restaurant with other teammates and their parents and attended a classical music performance by an orchestra of mentally disabled musicians.
“It was simply fantastic and very inspiring — despite our tired girl nodding off toward the end,” Kathy said.
The last day of the competitions, Katie won her second bronze medal in the slalom event.
“What a thrilling and nail-biting day for us,” the Smiths wrote in an email update. After Katie’s’ first run, she asked her father how she did. He told her it was her best so far and she was in fourth place. But Katie wasn’t satisfied.
“She looked me straight in the eyes and then told me she did not want another ribbon; she wanted another medal. So we told her to go for it and ski a bit faster. She came out of that gate like a bat out of you know where and we could feel her determination from a quarter of a mile away,” her mother wrote.
Rick and Kathy said the athletes’ pride for their countries, their perseverance and the encouragement from their coaches stood out to them.
“Kathy and I wonder how much better the world would be if we could take the learnings from these terrific athletes and apply it to our everyday lives,” Rick said.
Katie has been a local celebrity since returning home Friday. Since she shared her story before her departure, Charlestonian and former Olympic skier Tom Corcoran reached out to her to give her words of encouragement. The pair plan to meet soon.
“Please tell her I’ll be pulling for her all the way, win or lose,” Corcoran wrote to the Smiths.
Friends and family also surprised her with a celebration Saturday at the Edisto Island Piggly Wiggly where she works on the weekends.
“It came as a total surprise. I was going there to show my boss my medals, and instead it was a big gathering with people from the whole island. It felt great,” Katie said. “I was really happy because I’m glad I have supportive friends and family and I loved every minute of that celebration.”
She said getting a ribbon on the second day taught her an important lesson.
“I learned that it doesn’t matter what you get. Everybody is still so proud of you,” she said.
And Katie isn’t done just yet. The 27-year-old said she’s going to start training for the 2018 winter games in Austria.
Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or jmcduffie@post andcourier.com.