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Local skiers head to Empire Winter Games

As the Olympic athletes head to Sochi, Russia, Cazenovia area Under-18 ski racers head to Lake Placid to compete in the 2014 Empire State Winter Games Feb. 7, 8, and 9.

Those athletes, coached by Todd Travis (at Toggenburgy) and Bob Okoniewski (at Labrador Mountain), include:

  • Galen Okoniewski, Cazenovia High School senior, who skis for Labrador;
  • Malone Gabor, also a Cazenovia High School senior, who skis for Toggenburg.
  • Phillip Maier, Manlius-Pebble Hill senior, who skis on the MPH high school team and for Toggenburg.
  • Mimi Gabor, sophomore at Cazenovia and Natalie Hotaling, junior at Fabius Pompey; both ski on the Toggenburg team as first-year competitors at the Under-18 level, though both have skied on the Toggenburg team for nine years.

Combined, these racers represent over 50 years of ski racing. These racers will compete in Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super G at Whiteface Mountain, on the trails used during the 1980 Winter Olympics.

As with any sport, these athletes put in years of hard work, discipline and sacrifice. A typical week for these racers consists of 15 to 20 hours of training, a few hours free skiing, and two to three hours tuning skis. Races most weekends require racers at the ski hill Saturday and Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., often travelling hours from Cazenovia.

Although they started by racing locally at venues such as Toggenburg, Labrador Song and Greek Peak ,these racers now compete from Buffalo to Lake Placid, against athletes from more than 20 New York State ski teams.

Alpine skiing is considered one of the most difficult sports to master, due to the high level of mental and physical skill, executed in extreme conditions.

To ensure high standards in development, competition and safety, all races are governed by the United States Ski & Snowboard Association) as well as the New York State Ski Race Association.