It’s Olympics season! And one North Denver local is making waves on the slopes outside of the classroom. That’s Brian Quayle. When he’s not lighting up his school hallways with his infectious smile, the ninth-grade skier, with the help of his father, continuously records first-place finishes in Special Olympics events around the state; and he isn’t slowing down any time soon.
On Feb. 14, the family duo snagged another pair of first-place wins in the slalom and giant slalom skiing events—their competitions of choice—at the 2022 Front Range Winter Games at Eldora Mountain Ski Resort, a regional event one week prior to State.
Three weeks later, on March 6, the father-son team repeated their success, earning gold medals in the giant slalom and slalom events at the State Winter Games at Copper Mountain.
For more than five years, the two have participated in more than a dozen Special Olympics races—an experience that Brian’s father, Ed Quayle, said really bonds the two together. Brian is non-verbal, he said, but very much full of life, expression, and competitive spirit. Skiing really brings that spirit out.
“The impact that it has on Brian … I’ve noticed that the day after, or even days after he participates in one of our skiing events, he’s more engaged, happy, and energetic. It seems to really improve his wellness and alertness,” Quayle said.
Quayle was always an outdoorsman growing up, he said, and in his adult life he goes mountaineering and rock climbing as often as he can. Those activities, as a family, aren’t the most accessible to do together due to his son’s condition, so when the two found skiing, a new door was opened for them both.
After volunteering with the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) in Winter Park, Quayle said he took up sit-skiing in 2011. This wasn’t the easiest way to learn, he admitted, but he knew he could build something special and unique with his son. Now the duo is making memories and earning accolades. It does wonders for both his son and himself, Quayle said, and he’s been involved with the NSCD ever since. In fact, Quayle has organized a group that contracts with NSCD each year to bring up five to 10 new individuals to learn and participate in skiing.
“It’s great that we can actually do things together like this. I think all parents want to have a great relationship with their kids and be involved with showing them different things to get passionate about in life,” Quayle said.
For Quayle, he said it allows him to feel like a more typical father than a father/caregiver, which he admitted he feels like often; but it’s also a way to forget about the complexities of the world and spend time with the one person he loves most. It’s a fun parent-and-child activity that both he and Brian look forward to and relish in.
And they excel as well. The two usually finish first or second in any given competition, Quayle said, which is fun, but it’s not the main goal. It’s all about the participating kids having a positive social environment, learning about personal growth and leadership. To keep stealing wins is just a cherry on top, but it’s the social aspects of the events that are the most rewarding, he said.
“For individuals who’ve got mental disabilities, the Special Olympics is probably one of the most important social networks for them, particularly for the adults,” he said.
Though Brian is an Olympian, he is also a Viking.
At North High School, Quayle said his son has never received such a warm welcome from any school prior, and students and staff go out of their way to not only acknowledge, but include Brian as often as possible to maximize his comfort level. Before the school year started, Principal Scott Wolf and Brian’s case manager Hannah Bergeman met with the Quayles to address anything the school could do to better serve Brian and his needs.
“Every day he rides to school he has a broad smile on his face and is ready to go,” Quayle said. “It’s a great community.”
And North sure loves him back. Bergeman said he is a hit among the other students, and they go out of their way to interact with him daily.
“One of the things that I love most is Brian’s ability to bring out joy and love,” Bergeman said. “The other students want desperately to make him laugh, to provide two-way interactions with him, and to include him in whatever they are doing. Some of our most challenging students are his best partners, and Brian consistently brings out the best in everyone around him.”