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DC speed skater to race at 2017 Special Olympics Winter World Games

Cornell Gray (ABC7)

Nearly 2,700 Special Olympics athletes, representing 107 countries around the world, will travel to Austria this weekend for the 2017 World Winter Games. One member of Team USA is a Washingtonian who only started speed skating two years ago.

Regardless of how much experience he has, 17-year old Cornell Gray wants a gold medal.

“I'm just going to go out there and do my best,” he said.

The junior at H.D. Woodson High School in Northeast Washington became involved with Special Olympics a couple years ago, playing basketball, soccer and other sports. But he'll compete at the 2017 Winter World Games in speed skating.

“At first I couldn't get it. And I just kept trying and trying,” Gray said.

He started out with hockey gear. But now, he's advanced to actual speed skates with 13-inch blades.

“You gotta realize he's only been on skates two years. When he first came into the building he didn't know how to skate. He didn't even know how to tie on a pair of skates,” said Tom Kling, Special Olympics D.C.’s senior director of sports and programs.

Gray is the only D.C. athlete traveling to the games in Austria, selected after a strong performance at a recent competition and after his name was picked in a lottery. This will be his first time outside the United States.

It is unclear whether he is fast enough to win a medal at the games, but his coaches say that's not the point and not how they measure success.

“We don't care where you finish just as long as you give us your best effort,” Kling said.

That is a mindset Cornell has embraced too.

“Sometimes I fall, but I'm gonna get right back up there with you,” he said. “So if I fall, I'm hurrying and getting back up so I will be right there behind you.”

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