By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jan 14, 2003 at 5:07 AM

Throw on some long johns and head to Wausau for a weekend of competitive fun at the 2003 Badger State Winter Games. The competition features 11 different sports in an Olympic style sports festival, the largest of its kind in the nation. The competition is for all levels of athleticism, with events for both the highly competitive and those who just want to have a little fun.

The Badger State Games was created in 1985 with only summer events and then in 1989, the Winter Games were added. Over 6000 athletes compete in the winter festivities annually, making it twice as large as the Winter Olympics.

Some of the sports featured in the winter games are nordic skiing, ski jumping, alpine skiing, figure skating and curling. Each event will give away a gold, silver and bronze medal to its winners. The Opening Ceremony for the Winter Games participants and spectators will be Olympic-style with an athlete parade, entertainment and fireworks.

"One year I went to the Badger State Games instead of the National Championships just for the experience -- it's something you just have to do," said Casey FitzRandolph, the 2002 Speedskating Olympic gold medalist and 2002 Badger State Games Honorary Athlete. "Anytime you encourage people to set a goal, practice or train to achieve that goal and have fun in the process, it's a winning situation. But the games are also competitive so it's a stepping-stone for people who are more serious. That's so cool. I like those events that you can do for fun. But they also give you perfect goals along the way to meet your ultimate dream."


This year the honorary athlete to represent the Badger State Games as the official spokesperson and to attend the Winter Games athlete party and light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony is Green Bay Packer right tackle, Mark Tauscher.

"I'm looking forward to helping get the kids out to compete," said Tauscher in a Dec. 11 press conference at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. "Competition is an important part of society and it's good for kids to get outside in winter, be with their friends, compete and have fun."

The Winter Games will take place from Fri., Jan. 31 through Sun., Feb. 2 in Wausau. For more information on registration and other details, check out the Badger State Games website,