Hoak, Prins shine golden at Special Olympics Winter Games

GALENA – Jacob Hoak has become a legend of sorts at Chestnut Mountain Ski Resort.

For Hoak, 32, last week’s Illinois Special Olympics Winter Games at the resort felt like just another year of the more than 20 he had successfully glided down its slopes.

When all is said and done, the end result doesn’t have that same old feeling – especially when he can add to an impressive rack of gold medals.

Hoak, a Stockton native, added one more gold to more than 40 from the Winter Games when he flew down the super-G slalom course in 36.02 seconds.

Racing for Kreider Services of Dixon, Hoak has been successful most of time he has participated, but overcame a fall in the regular slalom run before his super slalom victory. He has mastered the sport to the point where he competes at the highest difficulty division.

He finished the regular slalom in 1:53.05.

“Just move on,” he said.

Skiing came easy for Hoak after just a couple of tries as a 6-year-old, his father, Jeff, said. The Hoaks, who later moved to Lanark, spent many years making trips to Chestnut, both just 30 minutes from home.

Skiing is Jacob’s favorite winter game, and he believes others can be successful at it, too – with a simple philosophy.

“If I think I can, I’ll be a winner,” he said.

Hoak has spent years wearing skis, but this year was Tamara Prins’ first wearing snowshoes. The Clinton, Iowa native and Erie resident’s first time competing at the Winter Games wound up being a golden one.

Prins, 33, of Erie, competed for Beyond Twin City, a sports club based in Sterling for local athletes with disabilities, in the 50-meter snowshoe dash.

She was one of four competitors for her team, and each raced in different difficulty divisions. After making it past a qualifier on Feb. 4, she found herself trailing Fatima Martinez of Heresy High School of Arlington Heights in the last 20 meters of the next day’s finals.

Then came a surge, and Prins beat Martinez by winning in 18.34 seconds. Martinez was 1.13 seconds back.

“I went past the second girl, fast,” Prins said. “It was me and the other girl.”

Prins now has two gold medals. She won the other at the Spring Games in March in the javelin throw. She was glad to have traded in a shotput for it, she said. She plans to compete in the 100-meter snowshoe race next year.

The Winter Games provide athletes with not just competitive races to participate in, but social events as well. Prins enjoyed dancing to the “Cha Cha Cha,” while Hoak enjoyed swimming, relaxing in the hot tub, and showing off his tattoo: It’s a Monster energy drink logo with a pair of dog tags hanging from the top of the M.

Hoak once worked at The Workshop Galena, a vocational rehabilitation agency for people with disabilities, and uses his time at the Winter Games to catch up with old friends.