Lucas Houk likes to tell other people about his life. He’ll come into work, whether it’s at Fleet Feet Sports on Marginal Way or eco-kids in Portland, and let everyone know what he’s been doing.

Next time they get together he’ll have some tales to tell.

Houk, a 25-year-old from Portland, won a gold medal in cross-country skiing on Monday in the Special Olympics Winter World Games in Austria, when he finished first in the men’s 5-kilometer freestyle race.

Those who know Houk well are not surprised by his performance because he’s a pretty good runner as well. Houk holds the state record for the Special Olympics mile (5 minutes, 51 seconds).

“He’s pretty incredible,” said Kip Weeks, the owner at eco-kids, where Houk works five days a week. “He’s just a great guy.”

And Houk isn’t the only Mainer doing well in Austria. On Tuesday, 38-year-old Anna McDougal of Wiscasset won a bronze medal in the Alpine novice giant slalom with a time of 1:22.48.

“I knew she could do it,” said Connie French Smith, McDougal’s coach for the last five years. “She’s goal-oriented, she’s enthusiastic. Skiing is all she can talk about.”

Both have two more races. Houk will compete in the 4-by-1K relay Wednesday and the 2.5-kilometer freestyle Friday. McDougal will compete in the slalom and the Super-G.

The Special Olympics Winter World Games began March 14 and are scheduled to end Friday. They are being held at three locations in Austria, and include figure skating, speed skating, floor hockey, floor ball, stick shooting, cross-country, snowshoeing, Alpine skiing and snowboarding.

Houk moved to Maine from Maryland in 2012 to attend STRIVE U in Portland, a post-secondary school that provides training to young adults with developmental disabilities, giving them skills to live independently. He was diagnosed with PDD/NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified) when he was 4 and placed in the autism spectrum by his doctors. His father, George W. Houk, is in Austria with Lucas. He said his son’s biggest challenge is processing language – understanding what someone is asking him and then trying to respond “in his own words,” George Houk said in a Facebook message.

Lucas Houk won his race with a time of 33:02.2. The medal ceremony was extremely emotional for his family.

“When your son steps up to the highest part of that platform and accepts his gold medal, it fills your heart,” wrote George Houk. “When he then turns to his fellow competitors and congratulates them, then holds their hands aloft in his, it fills your eyes.”

Lucas Houk’s co-workers are looking forward to hearing new stories from him. Weeks said Lucas Houk will always tell people about his weekend, or his latest events.

“But he doesn’t boast about it,” said Weeks. “I’ll ask him how fast he ran a mile and he’ll tell me. I’ll say that’s pretty impressive and he just (shrugs).”

Weeks said Houk has been a valuable member of his staff for three years, helping produce all-natural children’s art supplies. “He dials in when he gets to work,” said Weeks. “He does things his own way, which we all do. He likes perfection, which is nice.”

Erin Flatley, the communications director for Fleet Feet, said Lucas Houk brings a needed social element to his job. “He is very social and he loves to talk to anyone who will talk with him,” she said. “He likes to share his experiences about the movies he’s seen or maybe his drawings. He is so excited with life, and we love it when he comes in and shares his stories.”

Flatley added that Lucas Houk is a regular member of the store’s running group. “He is a phenomenal runner,” she said.

George Houk said Fleet Feet and eco-kids share in his son’s achievements.

“This really is about the place in a community that a person with intellectual disabilities has built, with the help of that community,” he said.

McDougal, who has Down Syndrome, has been with the Maine Special Olympics for nine years. She is a published author and an artist. She works at the Spindle Works Art Center in Brunswick.

Smith, her coach, said McDougal has progressed incredibly in the five years they have been together.

“When she started out she was very timid,” said Smith, who lives on Bailey Island. “She was afraid because of her last experience. That came when she was in middle school, some 20 years earlier, and she skied into a pond. So she was very afraid.

“But she fell in love with (skiing) again.”

And it shows in her results. McDougal has struggled with some health issues the last couple of years, including surgery last year that included pins being inserted into a foot. But she wasn’t going to miss the chance to ski in Austria.

“That was her motivation,” said Smith. “For every injury she suffered she would tell the doctor, I want to ski in Austria.”

UPDATE: This file was updated on March 22 at 1:55 p.m. to correct Lucas Houk’s age.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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