Halfway across the world, Lucas Houk of Portland became a world champion on Monday.
Houk earned a gold medal while competing for Team USA at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games at Ramsau am Dachstein, Austria.
Houk won the Men’s 5K Cross Country Freestyle event, posting a time of 33 minutes, 2.20 seconds. His time was more than one minute faster than runner-up Wolfgang Leithner of Austria (34:15.20).
“We are so excited that Lucas is off to such an amazing start after only his first competition,” said Lisa Bird, public relations director for Maine Special Olympics.
Another Maine athlete, Anna McDougal of Wiscasset, claimed a bronze medal on Tuesday.
McDougal finished third in the Women’s Alpine Novice Giant Slalom event, posting a time of 1 minute, 22.48 seconds. Race winner Mercedes Fernandez of Spain was clocked in 1:16.81.
“After winning her bronze medal, she was heard saying, ‘I am having the time of my life!’” Bird said.
There are 2,600 athletes and more than 1,000 coaches from 106 countries participating in the Special Olympics World Winter Games.
Bird explained that Houk, who is on the autism spectrum, has been active in Special Olympics competition for six years. George Houk, Lucas’ father, posted on Facebook that his son took up skiing when he was 4 years old and switched from Alpine to cross country when he was 13.
Lucas Houk, who grew up in Maryland, also is scheduled to compete in the 4x1K Freestyle relay on Tuesday and the 2.5K Freestyle on Friday.
The 38-year-old McDougal, who grew up skiing in New Hampshire before moving to Maine, has competed in Special Olympics for nine years. She also plans to compete in the Super-G and Slalom races at the world games.
She also has written a book, “A Look Back,” which talks about her life and her experiences.
Also representing Maine at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games is Duane Hall of Brewer. He is coaching American Special Olympians in snowshoeing.