Cross-country skier headed to South Korea

There are people trying to sweat off their New Year’s resolution. There are those rehabilitating an injury. And amongst everyone in the Williamsport YMCA is Erin Erdman and Lester Loner.

Traveling from weight machines to treadmills to open activity areas, the two work as a team on a mission.

And they are on one – a mission to compete against the world’s best in the Special Olympics World Games at the end of the month.

The pair leaves Jan. 25 from California for the Republic of Korea. With Loner coaching Erdman in cross-country skiing, they’re trying to improve every day.

“You need to focus on what your ability is and challenge yourself,” Loner said.

The two meet at least three times a week to work out at the Y – usually lasting about two hours – and Erdman trains at home, as well. They have been doing this since the end of October.

“We do a lot of tough workouts,” Loner said.

The two already have competed in a world winter game, attending the 2001 event in Alaska. They also were invited this past summer to the event site in Seoul, South Korea, as a pregame try-out for the courses. She won a gold at the try-out but hopes for another.

“I’m hoping to come back with another gold,” Erdman said. “But if I don’t, it’s nothing to worry about.”

Loner said that’s what is important for all athletes competing in the Special Olympics. He said athletes should focus on improving, not in what place they finish.

“All you can do is do your best,” he said.

Erdman will be competing in three cross-country skiing events – the 5K, the 4×100 relay and either the 10K or 7.5K.

Although she only will compete against female athletes in Korea, Erdman has competed and defeated males, which she said always is the “No. 1” priority.

Loner stressed that competitors may have disabilities, but they still compete and are world-class athletes. Special Olympic participants compete on the same courses as the Olympics.

“When she’s skiing, she’s skiing on courses laid out for world-class athletes,” Loner said. “There’s no cutting (down rules) in the Special Olympics.”

Being overseas already, will be beneficial to Erdman, she believes.

“When I go over, I think I’ll be a lot more comfortable,” Erdman said.

The two said the experience at a world game is like no other. Competitors use a form of sign language to communicate, Erdman said. They also trade T-shirts and pins.

So Erdman and Loner keep training. And if Erdman has things her way, she’ll bring gold back with her.

“It’s really exciting to represent the United States. … I just hope I can bring home the gold for the states,” Erdman said.

“When we come back, I’m sure we’ll have stories to tell,” she added.