MISSOULA, Mont. -

At a recent “Super Grizzly Dip” fundraiser event, Coulter Maul was crowned King, and his girlfriend Hilary Benjamin was crowned Queen. The two had raised the most money in the days leading up to the event.

It’s fitting, because Coulter’s introduction to the Special Olympics was a love story. His girlfriend encouraged him to start competing.

“She talked me into doing it,” said Maul.

“He hadn’t heard of the Special Olympics before so I just talked him into it,” said Benjamin.

“He started with basketball and he has just blossomed, not just athletically but also in his personality and his leadership,” said Maul’s coach, Dawn Payne.

NBC Montana visited with Coulter as he trained at the YMCA earlier this week for the Special Olympics Winter Games in Whitefish, which kicked off this weekend.  It was his routine core workouts, in between regular trips to Lookout Pass for downhill training.

He spoke of how emotional it was to win his first gold medal a few years ago, for downhill skiing.  Benjamin also recalled the memory fondly.

“He was crying and everything,” said Benjamin.

He explained that before he was introduced to the Special Olympics, he lived a relatively isolated life, mostly going to work and surfing the internet. Now, he’s excelled at multiple sports, and made many friends.

“Friends for life,” said Maul.

The state Special Olympics Winter Games kicked off in Whitefish on Saturday, and run through February 25th. Maul will compete in the “Downhill Skiing” category.