A Portland man won a gold medal in cross-country skiing at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria on Monday.
Lucas Houk won a men’s 5-kilometer freestyle race, finishing in 33 minutes, 2.2 seconds in his first event at the games. Lisa Bird, a spokeswoman for Special Olympics Maine, confirmed Houk’s victory at the competition that brings together more than 2,600 athletes and 1,000 coaches representing 106 countries.
“Lucas is amazing. I just can’t explain to you what a great athlete he is,” she said.
Houk, who also runs and kayaks, has been involved with Special Olympics for six years, winning two gold medals at events in Maine. One was for cross-country skiing at Sugarloaf and the other was for winning a mile run during a competition in Orono, Bird said.
He trains with his father, George W. Houk, who accompanied his son to Austria, along with his mother, Pat Bailey, and family.
George Houk is the founder and coach of the Portland All Stars, a team of Special Olympians from the Portland area. Bird said that Lucas Houk is on the autism spectrum.
The games began March 14 and are scheduled to end Friday. They are being held at three locations in Austria – Graz, Schladming-Rohrmoos and Ramsau – and will include figure skating, speed skating, floor hockey, floor ball, stick shooting, cross-country, snowshoeing, alpine skiing and snowboarding.
Anna McDougal of Wiscasset also is participating in the games, competing in alpine skiing. She has been skiing for four years. McDougal works at Spindle Works Art Center in Brunswick, doing ceramics and artwork.
Duane Hall of Brewer is serving as the U.S. Special Olympics team coach for snowshoeing. Bird said that Bridgton police officer Phil Jones also traveled to Austria, running in the law enforcement torch run’s final leg.
Jones was among several police officers from around the world who carried the Special Olympics torch across Austria before the games began.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: