Aspen’s Klug, Oregon’s Meece return to top of Special Olympics unified race at X Games

Henry Meece, front, shows his gold medal after taking first in the Special Olymics Unified Snowboard Finals during the X-Games on Thursday, Jan. 25, in Aspen. Meece was on Chris Klug's team.
Chris Dillmann | |

Henry Meece is so good, his mother made him sit out the Special Olympics unified snowboard event at X Games Aspen last year to make things fair.

That meant he was well-rested Thursday for his return to the Buttermilk slopes.

“She said we got to give everyone else a shot. He’s too fast,” Chris Klug said of his teammate, Meece. “He’s an awesome guy and I was honored to ride with him. Today really is what snowboarding is all about with X Games — it’s the essence of action sports. It brings us all together for a great time.”

The dual slalom snowboarding event helped kickstart the action for this week’s X Games, the 17th consecutive year the annual snowsports contest has been held at Buttermilk Ski Area. The race, held for the fourth time, featured eight teams of two, each with one Special Olympics athlete and one professional, current or former.

And, for the third time in four years, Aspen’s Klug paired with Special Olympics superstar Meece to take gold.

“It’s an amazing event and I’m proud to partner with Henry and happy I can help him bring in another gold,” Klug said. “You can feel the energy up there today. I think the X Games medalists and the Olympians, I think we are all the ones most stoked to be out here doing this.”

Klug’s story is well-known. The 2002 Winter Olympic bronze medalist in alpine snowboarding is lucky to be alive after receiving a liver transplant 17 years ago. Not long after, he became the first transplant recipient to compete at the Olympics. He is the name behind the Chris Klug Foundation, which advocates for organ and tissue donation.

He and Meece held off the duo of Hannah Teeter and Daina Shilts, while Silje Norendal and Denisa Trmalova were third.

Other pros who competed include Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler, Australia’s Scotty James, X Games host Jack Mitrani and U.S. slopestyle superstar Jamie Anderson.

“She is the greatest I’ve ever known,” Special Olympics athlete Cody Field said of his teammate, Anderson. “She’s one of the bombshells I love the most, and I gave her this blanket, which is from Pyeongchang, South Korea, from the 2013 World Games, which I won three golds in.”

Field, who is from Centennial, has competed in the X Games unified snowboard event all four years. And like Meece, who has Korean ancestry, Field is an accomplished Special Olympics athlete on the international stage. Pyeongchang, which is hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics next month, hosted the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games.

“I love X Games. It’s my life,” Field said. “There is no way I’ll ever give it up. I never give it up, anyhow. I love the energy and I love my friends here.”