WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange resident Jordan Cohn recently followed a family tradition and became an Olympic athlete in the Mount Creek Special Olympics New Jersey Winter Games, held at Mountain Creek earlier this month.
Cohn received a gold medal in the Intermediate Super G Alpine race and a silver medal in the Giant Slalom.
Although this was Cohn’s first entrance into the Special Olympics, the nearly 22 year old has a genetic predisposition toward athleticism. His grandfather, Charles Mays, was a member of the 1968 USA Olympic Track Team and competed in the long jump during the Mexico City Summer Games.
Raised in West Orange as the middle sibling of three brothers, Cohn was classified on the autism spectrum at age 3. His parents, Richard and Monica Cohn, said that because he grew up with older brother Gavin and younger brother Trey, Jordan was treated with and given the same opportunities as his neuro-typical brothers.
Richard, whose son enjoys the water, rollerblading and riding his scooter and bicycle, taught Jordan to ski at nearby Shawnee Mountain in 2009. He noted that Jordan picked it up quickly, loving the exhilaration of flying down a mountain and the concentration it required to do so safely.
At the suggestion of Frank Corrado, a close family friend and Jordan’s former principal at Roosevelt Middle School, Jordan and his parents attended the 2018 Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ) Summer Games in Ewing. After that, Jordan the family was hooked.
In February of 2019, Jordan and his family observed the SONJ Winter Games at Mountain Creek, and they knew they were on the right path.
Jordan began training in July 2018 and has continued to do so since then, gaining muscle mass, losing weight and developing discipline. Yomi Karade, founder of “IFP with Yomi” and Jordan’s personal trainer, continues to meet with him three days a week and has been “instrumental in his overall conditioning,” according to Richard.
It was determined that Jordan would compete in the Giant Slalom and Super G Alpine Events for the 2020 Winter Games.
However, when Jordan’s father looked for an Area 9 (Essex County) coach and training program to prepare for the Winter Games, he found there were none for the Alpine Events. Subsequently, Richard took the required tests and certifications to become a SONJ coach and officially registered Team Jordan for Area 9.
During the first day of competition, Jordan participated in time trials to determine his placement for his events after first collecting his credentials, race bib, lift ticket and goodie bag.
When Jordan’s mother saw that his race bib number was 68, Richard said she gasped and said, “You know what that number is Rich, don’t you?” And as soon as she said it, Richard realized it represented the ’68 Olympic Games that Monica’s father, Jordan’s grandfather, competed in.
That day, Feb. 3, also happened to be her father’s birthday; and both Monica and Richard saw this as a sign. According to Richard, they now they felt that “Jordan had a coach in Heaven.”
“Olympian and his Pop-Pop, Charles Mays, had made his presence known,” he said. “We all knew the next two days were going to be very, very special.”
For the Super G Alpine race, Jordan’s time for the first run—the practice run—was 1:03.38, according to his dad.
“A respectable time, but unlikely to medal,” said Richard. “He had to do everything right for the real deal—the second heat, which counted.”
While waiting for his turn at the top of the mountain, Jordan was clapping his gloves together and laughing, saying, “I got this!” The mantra was repeated one more time, and he was off.
In between gates, Jordan again started clapping, moving faster along the way and flying over the finish line with a time of 52.97—a full 10 seconds better than his practice run.
The Silver Medal went to William Rainello with a time of 53.90, which meant that Jordan was the Gold Medalist, edging out his opponent by less than a second.
Jordan plans to enter the Winter Games, which will be the world games, next year. Until then, he will continue to work on overall conditioning with his trainer. He also hopes to compete in the power lifting competition.
In addition to his training, Jordan attends weekly speech lessons, guitar and drum lessons as well as pottery classes. He also works with horses at Rocking Horse Rehabilitation. After attending an in-district program for several years, Jordan was a student at Celebrate the Children in Denville from age 15 to 19.
According to Jordan’s parents, the family also skis almost every weekend and heads to Jackson Hole, Wyo. once or twice each season out of pure passion for the sport.