The silver snowboarder

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Peter Cooper Village athlete Zach Elder (pictured at right) with his older brother Douglas (Photo by Karen Elder)

 

Resident wins medal in X Games Special Olympics

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

When Peter Cooper resident Zach Elder declared at age 9 that he wanted to learn to snowboard, his parents were shocked.

Elder is autistic and his mother Karen said that up to that point, her son was not very verbal, “never saying anymore than he needed to say to get the point across,” she said. But Elder was determined to snowboard, and that willpower to learn the sport paid off: he’s now 20 and on January 28, won a silver medal at the X Games in Aspen in the Special Olympics Unified Sports snowboarding event.

Elder, who has been competing in races since age 13 and who said his idol, Olympic and X Games gold medalist Shaun White, inspired him to learn the sport, is a member of a team with the Adaptive Sports Foundation, a non-profit organization offering outdoor physical activities and education for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities and chronic illnesses. Although Elder trains at ASF, which is about an hour south of Albany, he has deep roots in Peter Cooper Village. His father, Richard, grew up in Peter Cooper and went to Stuyvesant High School when it was still in the neighborhood.

“My mom is 91 and still lives there,” he said.

The event at the X Games is a partnership between the games and the Special Olympics that first took place last year, which Elder also participated in, winning a bronze medal with snowboarder Scotty James. Last year’s event marked the first time that Special Olympics athletes competed during the X Games. Continue reading