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Proud to call world champion Amie Opie a teammate

My mom used to drag me, kicking and screaming, out of the house to take me to speed skating practice.

Literally, I was kicking and screaming because I really did not want to go. I have witnesses.

Sometimes, during winter warm stretches when the ice melted during the day at the Stodden Park rink, the battles came a couple of hours before school started because we had to practice before sunrise.

I came from a family of speed skaters, but I absolutely hated everything about the sport. I hated the cold, the sore feet and the going around in circles.

My mom hated the idea of having a son not carry on the family tradition. She was a member of some of the St. John’s teams that dominated the Butte School Races. My grandpa was the coach of those teams, and my mom’s entire family speed skated.

My older brother was a junior national speed skating champion, and I was the black sheep because I didn’t want any part of the sport. It was like I was a Baldwin brother who didn’t want to be a bad actor. Or a Bush who didn’t want to be a politician owned by the oil companies.

Before the skating season when I was in fourth grade, I wore my mom down and she conceded that I was going to quit skating. A bunch of second-place finishes — in a field of two — probably helped drive home the fact that I was never going to by Olympic material.

“But,” she said. “You are still going to skate in the School Races.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”

We argued about the School Races for months, but I knew she would make me skate all along.

When it came to speed skating, my mom was like a more dedicated and less-rational version of Todd Marinovich’s dad. She was Earl Woods.

Luckily, the chicken pox hit just in time saved me from competing in the all-important School Races that year, and I haven’t been on skates since.

My mom probably suspected that I was faking it. She probably thought I was drawing all those little pocks on with a marker.

Surprisingly, though, I got to stay home the weekend of the School Races, and I was quite happy about that.

Yes, in 1985 I would rather be in bed suffering with the chicken pox than competing in a speed skating competition. Even the all-important School Races. Especially the School Races.

Recently, though, I came to the realization that I am glad I was dragged out of the warm house to the cold rink and sore feet. Now I get to brag about one of my teammates on the Blaine Elementary School speed skating team.

Yep, I am proud to announce that I was teammates with none other than gold medalist Amie Opie.

Before she became a world champion, Amie speed skated for the Blaine Mustangs. I honestly can’t remember how fast she skated, but I’m pretty sure she was faster than me because, well, everybody was.

I do remember her skating for our school, however. I remember she was very enthusiastic about it, too.

Recently, Amie went to Los Angeles and won gold in the 10-kilometer cycling road race at the Special Olympics World Games.

Not the state games. Not the regional games. Not the United States games. The World Games. The second-place rider was from Slovenia. Third place was from Belgium. Amie is a world champion.

The opening ceremony for the World Games were held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the same place as the ceremonies for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games.

It might not be quite the same as being teammates with Colt Anderson or Rob Johnson, but it is pretty darn cool.

Actually, it might be better because Special Olympians truly are special people. It’s not just a clever name. What these athletes overcome and the spirit they bring to the competition is truly inspirational.

If the sight of a Special Olympian doesn’t warm your heart, then you are probably not human.

Special Olympians represent the closest thing to pure innocents we have in society. There is no showing up of opponents. No deflating footballs. No embarrassing arrests. No greed. No parents dragging them, kicking and screaming, to practice.

In a way, Special Olympians represent everything that is good with humankind, and Amie is a perfect example of that spirit.

Anybody who ever visited the deli counter at the Butte Stokes (formerly Albertsons) will certainly attest to that. She is clearly a dedicated, selfless worker who is always friendly and courteous.

I’m pretty sure I have never seen her without a smile on her face, even when the line at the counter was full of impatient costumers.

You didn’t even hear her gripe when Robbie Knievel totaled her very first car with his latest DUI crash. She just moved forward, went to work and trained for the World Games.

If she was mad about the crash caused by the irresponsible act of the daredevil — and she had every right to be irate about it — it never showed.

Actually, she might have even benefited from the extra time on her bike after the April crash on Harrison Avenue. It might have cut a few seconds off her time.

Amie still has a really nice bike because she is a member of the Hot Wheels Cycling Team. As a guy who grew up playing with Hot Wheels I cannot put into words how cool that is.

Before that, though, Amie was a Blaine Mustang speed skater. So was I.

The only difference was Amie didn’t have to be dragged out of her house to be there.

— Bill Foley, who still kicks and screams, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 5 comments



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5 Comments

  • Dan Green
    August 11, 2015, 8:32 am

    Great story, Bill!! What an inspiration she is!! Kudos for taking the time to tell her story!

    REPLY
  • Marilyn McInerney
    August 11, 2015, 9:00 am

    Great Story!! We have so much to learn..Great Lady…Great Determination…Beautiful Spirit.

    REPLY
  • Elaine (Opie) Harmon
    August 11, 2015, 5:17 pm

    Bill, thanks for fun and well-written article. My little sister is certainly an inspiration to me and I am glad others have recognized her as well

    REPLY
  • Kristine (Opie) Akridge
    August 12, 2015, 5:02 pm

    Bill what a great tribute to a fantastic athlete!

    REPLY
  • Larry Driscoll
    August 12, 2015, 5:59 pm

    Good article Biill. Good achievement Amie!

    REPLY

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