‘Can’t believe it was me’: Wiscasset’s Anna McDougal makes Maine Sports Hall of Fame

Thu, 02/01/2024 - 8:45am

“This was like, ‘What?’ I was so happy and honored,” artist, author, advocate for people with disabilities, and athlete Anna McDougal recalled Jan. 31 about learning recently, she will be one of Maine Sports Hall of Fame’s 2024 inductees. “I think it brought tears to my eyes. I can’t believe it was me” making the Hall of Fame, she told Wiscasset Newspaper.

The honor, announced in a press release Jan. 31, is the latest accomplishment among many for the Wiscasset woman. Her second book, “Ski Dreams,” about how hers came true, will be out soon. McDougal, now 44, took silver in Alpine novice slalom and bronze in Alpine novice giant slalom in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. And in a ceremony at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium next September, she will become the first Special Olympian in Maine Sports Hall of Fame.
“I heard it’s going to be very formal. And I have to make a speech, and I get awarded a trophy” and there will be a dinner, she said.
Skiing has always been, and will always be, her favorite sport, said McDougal. Her late grandfather who she was very close to, Harry Shartar, said he was “so proud” of her skiing, McDougal recalled. She won the medals in his memory, and will dedicate her Hall of Fame trophy to him and to her whole family, who helped her through her knee injury so she could still ski.
McDougal said the new book tells how she almost had to give up skiing after being diagnosed with the knee issue, a torn meniscus. “I thought I was done. But I wasn’t. I kept at it,” with physical therapy. “My book is about determination, and the love of skiing.” Its publisher, Blackberry Books, also published McDougal’s “A Look Back,” about her growing up with Down Syndrome. 
Brother-in-law Jeff Burchstead, interviewed separately Jan. 31 about the news they will have a Maine Sports Hall of Fame member in the family, said: “We’re very impressed. She’s always been an overachiever, but we’re impressed.” He and wife Amy Burchstead, McDougal’s sister, have Buckwheat Blossom Farm. McDougal lives there, collects and cleans chicken eggs and in summer helps in the gardens.
She has long worked as a fiber artist at Spindleworks in Brunswick. There, she weaves, recycles old projects into new ones, and is really into making paintings, she added.
About a week after getting word about making the Hall of Fame, it is sinking in for McDougal and, she said in the phone interview, it feels good to be honored alongside people who do not have a disability. And she said it shows others who have disabilities they can do it. “That’s what we strive for in life. To be like everybody else. And I got that.”
Maine Sports Hall of Fame’s press release notes McDougal “becomes the first Special Olympian honored ... She has competed in many events such as track and field, but Alpine skiing is an integral part of her life.” Besides her accomplishments at the World Winter Games in Austria, it notes she has won Alpine gold medals in the Maine Winter Games. 
According to the press release, fewer people made the Hall’s Class of 2024 because the “Emmy-like” Sept. 15 ceremonies, which will air later on Maine Public Television, will also induct 2023’s previously announced 10 honorees; their ceremony was postponed due to last year’s mass shooting in Lewiston. The inductees for 2024 will be McDougal; Derek Vogel, who at Westbrook College became Maine college basketball’s all-time leading scorer, with 3,051 points, and who went on to play nine seasons in Europe; award-winning, Husson College women’s basketball coach Kissy Walker; and Dave Halligan, boys basketball and soccer coach at Falmouth High School, and the first Mainer to earn 500 wins in each sport, the release states.
Tickets go on sale April 1 at mshof.com/tickets