NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – Michael DeLuca, a junior at Northbridge High School, is all smiles enjoying the celebrity status that comes with being a gold medal Olympian.
Drawn to snow-covered slopes since the age of 3, the Northbridge High School junior competed in the Winter International Special Olympics in Pyeong Chang, South Korea this past February.
He came away with a bronze medal in the Super giant slalom and gold in the giant slalom.
His mom Erin is all smiles too, coupled with tears of pride in her son and gratitude for friends and a community that made sure, through fun fund raising events, that she and her husband would witness their son’s achievement.
“We wouldn’t have been able to be there for Michael if it weren't for so many people in this town coming together and supporting us. It was an amazing journey. I can’t imagine him doing this and us not being there to witness him getting a Gold medal,’’ she said.
Michael admits to a few tears too, happy ones, when he was presented his Gold medal. “My mom cried and my dad too,’’ an eye-opening experience for the boy who said he’d never seen his dad cry.
“It’s very emotional to see your child live their dream,’’ his mother admits.
It was Michael’s first time out of the country and, except for when he was a baby, his first time on an airplane. He’s proud to say he handled it well. “I just went when the flow,’’ he said.
In addition to winning medals and skiing with Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver, that flow included being the center of attention wherever he went, not because of his skiing ability, but because of his eyes.
Michael’s eyes are a deep blue, a rarity in South Korea, so people from the host country were anxious to take his picture.
The whole trip was “awesome,’’ Michael said, and something he’d like to do again.
He also came home to a gift from Mother Nature, landing in Boston just a day after the Blizzard of 2013. “I saw houses where the snow came up so high the front door was barricaded. It was awesome,’’ he said.
In addition to skiing, Michael plays football, tennis and wrestles for Northbridge High School and is also a member of the band.
He’s thinking of training this summer for a spot on the Special Olympics tennis team though he knows it will be a lot of work. To qualify for the Olympics, Michael trained a grueling three days a week on slopes at Nashoba and Gunstock.
His next personal goal – getting his driver’s license.e.