The Laconia Daily Sun
Written by: Adam Drapcho
LACONIA — Some say it’s better to be lucky than to be good. Mark Lagueux has the benefit of both attributes, though, and he needed them both to be selected to represent New Hampshire and the United States at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games, to be held January 29 through February 5 in the mountainous South Korean city of Pyeongchang.
Lagueux, 18 years old and a 12th grader at Laconia High School, will compete in the sport of alpine skiing. He earned the opportunity to represent his country by winning a gold medal in a Special Olympics competition held earlier this year at Waterville Valley. Through a lottery system, New Hampshire Special Olympics selects two of its athletes, drawing from among all those who won a gold medal, to participate in the World Winter Games. In this way — by being both excellent and fortunate — Lagueux was picked as a member of the U.S. Special Olympics team. He’ll be joined by New Hampshire’s other athlete, Laura Lemieux of Berlin, who will also compete in the alpine skiing events. Other events at the games will include cross-country skiing, figure skating, speed skating and snowboarding.
It was about three months ago that Lagueux heard that he was South Korea-bound. “It felt awesome,” he recalled. The feeling hasn’t worn out, either. “Amazing, this is part of my lifetime right now.”
When he was a year and a half old, Lagueux was involved in an automotive accident. He suffered brain damage from the event, which today results in developmental disabilities and a palsied right hand. It hasn’t dimmed his smile or friendliness, though, nor his eagerness to try new things and meet new people.
At LHS, Lagueux has joined the integrated soccer and basketball sports teams. He was also a member of the Winnipesaukee Warriors, a Special Olympics team focused on summer events. Through that team, he was encouraged two years ago to join the Gunstock Special Olympics Team, where he found a team of volunteer coaches to help develop his skills and talents.
There, on the slopes of Gunstock, Lagueux earned the nickname “The Legend.”
In his view, his downill prowess is built on his ability to control his speed — dialing in as much velocity as he could handle without losing control. When racing, he said, he asks himself, “Do I need more speed or not? I use my speed to keep me in the game.”
Darrin Hardy, one of his volunteer coaches, recalled that Lagueux had to be coaxed to go faster when he was a novice skier. Now, though, “The Legend” Legueux is compelled by the desire to see how fast he can go without leaving his skis. “It is a challenge,” he said about skiing, adding that he isn’t discouraged by his tumbles. “If I get up, I can try again.”
Whether it’s his mother, teammates or coaches, Lagueux has had the good fortune of supportive people around him. Now, about to embark on a great adventure, he has more support than ever. Last week, Piche’s Ski and Sports donated an assortment of equipment to the effort, including skis, poles, helmet and clothing, totalling about $1,600. Pat Bolduc, one of the store’s co-owners, said the donation was an “easy decision, glad to do it. He’s a great kid, he’s worked hard. This is a real big deal to do what he has in two years.”
To help pay for incidental expenses during his trip to the World Winter Games, his friends and family will be hosting a fund raising dinner and dance. Held on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the VFW Post on Court Street in Laconia, the event will feature a live band and catering by Kitchen Cravings. Attendants will be asked to donate $10 at the door.
Next month, Lagueux and other members of the Special Olympics Team USA will travel to Lake Placid, N.Y. for a training camp. Then, in January, he and the rest of the team will head to Pyeongchang, where more than 3,300 athletes from around the world will celebrate the spirit of competition and sportsmanship.
“Whatever I have — gold, silver, bronze medals — I will still have fun and support the teams when I get back,” Lagueux said, adding that he hopes to “enjoy life, have a good time and meet new friends in South Korea.”