by John Featherstone
ATHENS, Greece—Manitoulin’s own Special Olympian, Austin Featherstone, had his dreams come true last week when he won Canada a gold medal in the 400-metre race before crowds of fans at the Olympic stadium.
June 30 was a perfect day in Athens for running with temperatures in the high 20s and overcast. In the 400-metre event, Austin found himself in fifth place going down the back stretch heading into turn three. Coming out of turn four he had moved into third place then powered himself down the home stretch to take the lead right at the finish line. It was a very exciting finish. That display of power was a tribute to his local trainers Kyle McDermid and Jerry Haliday, the Burpee Mills Gym and, of course, coach Janet Anning.
The next day was hot with temperatures in the high 30s and relentless sun. In the 800-metre race, Austin again found himself again in fifth place. Even though he shaved an unbelievable three seconds off his personal best, he was unable to catch the leaders. The race was won by an athlete from South Africa with a blistering time of 2.07—an indication of the level of competition at these World Games.
On Saturday, the hot weather continued. In the 4×4 100-metre relay, the first runner for Team Canada put the team in first place. He handed the baton to Austin who again beat his personal best time and kept the team in first place. Unfortunately, the third runner for Canada was overpowered by the competition and the team finished fourth.
Manitoulin can be proud. With one first place finish, one fourth, and one fifth, Austin is certainly within the top 10 runners in the world for Special Olympics. Watching him interact with others, he is also a great ambassador for Canada and has also just been named Male Athlete of the Year for Ontario Special Olympics.
Monday of this week was the final day for the games with closing ceremonies taking place at the Kallimarmaro Panathinako Stadium.
The World Summer Games involves 7,500 athletes from 170 countries with 25,000 volunteers involved in the event. Sixty thousand people attended the opening ceremonies. This was by far the largest sporting event held in the world for 2011.