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UPDATED: Valencia teen scores her first gold on Sun Valley slopes

Snowboarder Marisa Watkins wins Intermediate Giant Slalom

Posted: February 11, 2009 3:21 p.m.
Updated: February 11, 2009 12:15 p.m.

Marisa Watkins of Valencia (center) scored a gold medal at the Special Olympics Winter World Games in Sun Valley, Idaho on Friday in the Snowboarding Intermediate Giant Slalom, edging Suk Il Huang of South Korea (left) and Martin John of the Czech Republic (right).

SUN VALLEY, Idaho -- Snowboarder Marisa Watkins of Valencia scored a gold medal at the Special Olympics Winter World Games in Sun Valley, Idaho on Monday.

Representing Team USA, the 15-year-old Golden Valley High School student took first place in the final round of the Division 2 Snowboarding Intermediate Giant Slalom, besting competitors from South Korea, the Czech Republic, Italy, Argentina and Germany.

Each snowboarder rode the course twice, and Watkins had the best final time of 01:37.86, edging Suk Il Huang of South Korea at 01:38.02 and Martin John of the Czech Republic at 01:38.26.

"I'm so excited to participate in the World Games, and I want to thank my family, friends, tecahers and sponsors for all of their support," Watkins said in an e-mail. "To be brave and never give up is how I got to the World Games."

Watkins, sponsored by Santa Clarita-based NLA, has Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, but overcame all obstacles on her way to the win.

She is enrolled in the Yes I Can program at Golden Valley for students with and without disabilities.

"Marisa told me she was going to bring home the gold, and she called the Yes I Can class after receiving her first gold medal," said Bret Lieberman, Golden Valley Yes I Can program director.

"We are all very proud of her," Lieberman said. "She is one of the most self-motivated students I have ever had the pleasure to teach. She loves extreme sports like snowboarding and surfing, and I have not seen her play one sport that she was not good at."

Lieberman sees Watkins as a role model for all students. "Marisa is an example that if you want something badly enough, you can reach the stars," he said. "She wants to teach people with disabilities to ski and snowboard when she grows up. She is going to continue to have success due to her positive attitude and personal drive."

Lieberman said Watkins is looking for other sponsors to join NLA in helping her achieve her dreams.

See Sports in the Thursday edition of The Signal for more on this story.


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