In only her fourth competition, 18-year-old Erin Hart of Pleasant Hill placed first in a field of eight. She competed in the level 2 ages 17-20 figure skating division.
"Words just cannot describe the overwhelming feeling you have in your heart to see your child overcome such hurdles in life like autism, and for her to simply shine in this moment.
(It) just brings tears of joy to these parents," said Erin's mom, Kathy Hart.
Erin competed Wednesday and Friday. She won both the compulsory and free skate categories within her division. Those scores are combined to determine the overall winner.
There are 152 athletes from the United States and about 3,200 athletes from around the world competing at the Winter Games.
Erin earned her spot in the international competition after winning the division at the Special Olympics Illinois 2012 Winter Games in Galena.
Her Nelson Center coach stayed home but waited anxiously until finding out Erin won.
"I was crying and jumping up and down," Janet Icenogle said. "I'm so happy for her. I'm so proud of all her hard work. We just make a great team."
The Winter Games run through Tuesday. Erin and her family are planning to watch fellow Team USA athletes and sightsee until they head home Thursday.
Meanwhile, another Nelson Center skater received a silver medal Thursday at the Special Olympics Illinois Winter Games. Although the games are officially hosted in Galena, the skaters competed in Dubuque, Iowa.
Twenty-year-old Korey Yemm of Chatham placed second in the level 1 figure skating division. Yemm, who has Down syndrome, learns quickly, works hard and is patient, her coach said.
"She just strives to do well," Ginnie Gietl added.
"She deserved that win (Thursday) with that silver medal."