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Area special olympics athletes come home to much fanfare

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

Little has changed for 16-year-old Felicia Cox since she returned from the Special Olympics World Games in Anchorage, Alaska, except that her friends now call her "Cinderella the Celebrity."

Cox was one of three West Virginians to compete in the games against an international field. Alva Stutler III of Harrison County and Jerry Clackler of Fayette County also made the trip.

Stutler and Cox returned home to fanfare as Nordic skiing (cross-country) champions.

Stutler placed seventh in the 3-kilometer event, won a silver medal in the 1-kilometer race and bested the field in the 500-meter event. Stutler claimed the gold by less than two seconds over Austrian Marcus Wurzer-Koch. Stutler also was a member of the gold medal-winning 4x1-kilometer relay team.

Cox placed fourth in the 1-kilometer, won a silver medal in the 3-kilometer and held off Czech Andrea Hrozova for the gold in the 500-meter event.

Cox called the experience exciting and she is enjoying her moment of glory.

"I think it's kind of funny because I've never gotten this kind of attention before," she said.

Julie Gaston, one of the coaches for the Harrison County athletes, said all the coaches were very proud, although they did have one minor regret -- they were not able to accompany the athletes to Alaska.

"We would have loved to have gone, for the experience and to be there for them," Gaston said. "This is different from most other sports, because everyone cheers for everyone.

"A lot of these kids, for them to just compete, it's amazing," she said. "Everyone wants everyone to win. For most of these kids, it's not about first, second or third, it's about finishing."

For Stutler, the experience was like a dream come true.

"I never thought we'd do that well, it was great," he said.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com.

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