Athletes from across eight Northern Ontario communities, gathered together in the Sault this weekend to compete in qualifying matches for curling and snowshoeing.
The results of these matches help to determine which athletes will compete in the 2019 winter games, which will be hosted here in the Sault.
Upon entering the field at the John Rhodes Community Centre, where the snowshoe races took place, groups of people could be seen chattering before and after their race.
The field was abuzz with loud cheers. Spectators cheered on their teammates and friends with robust passion, and competitors raced with vigor and resolve.
I had the pleasure to talk to some of the athletes and view some of the snowshoe races. This offered some perspective into the amount of hard word, dedication, and training that these types of competitions take, for athletes and coaches alike.
For athlete Mark Dokum from Manitoulin Island, this year’s competition marked his very first time competing in the winter games. He is excited to be participating in the 100 and 200 metre dash, both of which he excelled at during the qualifiers today.
He also told SaultOnline, “I won three gold medals during the Peel summer games (in 2017) so I am looking forward to seeing how I do in the winter games now.”
Eric Gervais, 29-year-old athlete from Sudbury, visited Sault Ste. Marie for the very first time this weekend. He participates in a number of sports including track, bocce, powerlifting, bowling, and snowshoeing. His favourite sports are ones where you get to run.
“My parents put me in Special Olympics when I was 9 years old so I’ve pretty much been doing it my whole life,” Eric continued, “My family always cheered me on a lot and I love having fans cheer me on.”
His dad accompanied him on the weekend trip to the Sault, where he competed in the snowshoe races.
Nathan Harman, local athlete from the Sault, shared with us that he has been a Special Olympics athlete for the last four years alongside his brother, Shevy.
When asked about his favourite sport, Nathan said, “It’s too hard to pick… I love hockey and baseball, but curling is up there, too.”
But he had a much easier time summarizing his favourite part about the Special Olympics, “I love having something to do and I love actually going out there and doing stuff and competing with other people.”
Nathan shared that between dry land training and outdoor practices at St. Kateri’s, they devote a lot of time to training and he gets to bond and build some really great friendships with his teammates.
We at SaultOnline encourage the community to support our local athletes and those competing in the 2019 winter games.
You can learn more about the Special Olympics that will be hosted in Sault Ste. Marie next year here.