Twinsburg -- Though he was born with Down Syndrome, Dodge Intermediate School sixth-grader Colin Lesko isn't afraid to strap on his skis and carve the powder with the best of them.
This determination and passion carried Colin to the Special Olympics of Ohio State Winter Games at Brandywine Ski Resort Feb. 6, where he took home a bronze medal for downhill skiing and a fourth place ribbon for giant slalom.
Colin, 12, started skiing in 2010 with his family, joining the Dodge ski club that fall, which has its lessons at Boston Mills Ski Resort. He's also tried his hand at soccer, baseball and karate and enjoys swimming.
His mother, Marianne, said Colin has long been an athletic youngster, though team sports became a challenge later in his childhood.
"Group sports were easier when he was younger, because the physical size difference wasn't as big," Marianne said. "Group sports are a little harder now as he gets older. Persons with Down Syndrome are smaller in stature, so as his peers become much bigger and stronger than him, it's harder for him to be competitive on teams."
Learning to ski carried its own set of difficulties, as Colin's disorder prevented effective skill and information retention.
"Colin has significant memory issues," Marianne said. "That makes school work pretty challenging for him. But when he likes to do something, he's very good at it. He likes skiing, so he's doing well at it."
Dodge ski coach Don Schultz said Colin's difficulty in learning to ski made for a rough start.
"I think, ability-wise, he had a difficult time remembering from one week to the next ... not a lot of advancements," Schultz said.
However, Schultz said Colin showed significant improvement during the second year of his training.
"The second year: Big strides," Schultz said. "He was able to remember from one week to the next some of the things he had to do to make turns, to make stops and so on. It was great to see him advance like that."
After two years of getting his snow legs under him, Schultz said Colin has a firm handle on skiing fundamentals. Instructor Eric Rahnenfuehrer, who gives individual lessons to Colin when the Dodge ski club practices at Boston Mills, said this progress has made for a noticeable boost to Colin's confidence.
"He's now starting to break through in terms of confidence," Rahnenfuehrer said. "His turns have come a long way, he's capable of skiing on his own, unassisted. He's been fun to ski with."
Marianne credits her son's progress to Schultz, the Dodge staff and the instructors at Boston Mills, including Rahnenfuehrer, who was assigned as Colin's personal instructor.
"Dodge didn't ask them to do that, they just offered to do that so he would have a good skiing experience, which is really nice of them to do," Marianne said. "I think that's also been a big part of why he's become a better skier.
"Ski Club's been very important to him, he loves it, he gets to be out with his peers and his peers get to see him doing things like they do, more typical things," Marianne added. "That's been a success."