A tale of two skiers

Special Olympics skier Katie Smith and former Olympic skier Tom Corcoran met for the first time last week.

South Carolina’s favorite Special Olympics skier Katie Smith has met her match.

Smith has Down syndrome and traveled to Pyeong Chang, South Korea, last month to compete in the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games. She returned to Charleston with two bronze medals.

Before she left, Tom Corcoran, a former Olympic skier, found her contact information and reached out to her and her family every day during her competition.

Corcoran competed in the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina, Italy, and came in fourth place in the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley, Calif.

Corcoran said his fourth place win was the highest an American man placed in the giant slalom until recently.

“I wanted to contact Katie through you and tell her how much her story resonated with me,” Corcoran first wrote to Smith’s parents Rick and Kathy.

Corcoran of Seabrook Island said reading Smith’s story in The Post and Courier “really touched a nerve. Here I am in South Carolina and it’s fair to say there aren’t a lot of skiers. I was sure I was the only alpine skiing Olympian here,” he said.

Since then, the pair has been in contact with each other and met for the first time last week. And they exchanged gifts Olympian style. Smith gave him a Team USA hat and pens. Corcoran gave her his bib from the 1956 winter games and a pin from the 1960 games.

“It felt really cool. I just thought it was interesting how he did the same thing I did. It was quite an honor to have a bib,” Smith said.

Smith said she would like to encourage other athletes in the future like Corcoran encouraged her.

“I highly encourage other people to reach for their goals the way I did and to know they always have a great support system with their friends and family,” she said.

Corcoran said people can learn a lot from Smith because of her positive attitude. The two said they plan on staying in touch.

“He’s taught me a lot. I couldn’t ask for a better athlete that I now know,” Smith said.

Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or jmcduffie@ postandcourier.com.

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