Island Special Olympics squad performs well in spite of imperfect Austrian snow conditions

    MANITOULIN—Manitoulin’s Team Canada Special Olympians Kelsey Mellan and Matthew Bedard are back home after two weeks in Austria, competing at the World Winter Games with some spectacular results for their country.

    MANITOULIN—Manitoulin’s Team Canada Special Olympians Kelsey Mellan and Matthew Bedard are back home after two weeks in Austria, competing at the World Winter Games with some spectacular results for their country.

    The two snowshoe athletes, who had to deal with less than ideal conditions as above seasonal temperatures caused the snow to become sugary and slushy, did their very best to overcome the situation, and posting great times in the process.

    Matthew Bedard competed in the 1,600 metre, 800 metres and 4×400 metre relay. Mr. Bedard took the silver medal in both the 800 metre and 4×400 relay and placed fourth in the gruelling 1,600 metre.

    Special Olympians Matthew Bedard and Kelsey Mellan, both of Assiginack, on a break from competition in Austria.

    Kelsey Mellan competed in the 100 metre, 200 metre and 4×100 metre relay. While Ms. Mellan did not medal, she posted excellent results despite the adverse trail conditions and was known to be in a tough and competitive heat, according to Island coach Judy Olacke.

    Ms. Olacke said it was plain to see by the photos that the two athletes had a lot of fun, meeting new friends. “They are good ambassadors for the Island, and for Canada as a whole,” she said.

    Mr. Bedard said he was tired but happy after his two weeks away from home and planned on relaxing for a week before he and fellow athlete Ms. Mellan get back into training for the upcoming track and field season.

    Ms. Bedard said there were some similarities between Austria and Canada, including nice, welcoming people. Besides competing, Mr. Bedard and his father Dr. Michael Bedard got to do some sightseeing as well, including the city of Graz and Ramsau, where the snowshoers competed. He noted the delicious Austrian food.

    He said he was also able to see Ms. Mellan compete in one of her races and was pleased to have the chance to cheer her on.

    “The conditions, because of the weather, were completely different from Cornerbrook (Newfoundland, site of the 2016 Canada Winter Games),” Mr. Bedard said. “It was harder to race. It was much warmer in Austria.”

    Father and son Matthew, left, and Mark Bedard share a
    special moment of
    accomplishment at the Special Olympics in the mountains of Austria.

    Mr. Bedard also spoke of the vast array of people he met, “from places with desert sands, Tunisia and Russia to our neighbours in the United States.”

    Team Canada was also encouraged to write to local school children, telling them a bit about themselves, their interests and where they are from. Mr. Bedard had a response from a boy named Luca, whom he eventually had the chance to meet along with his whole family. Luca, he said, was smart, kind and an all-around nice person.

    In the 800 metre race, Mr. Bedard called the race “quite interesting” due to the soft snow. “My time was a bit off, but overall it was a good race with good competition,” he said.

    On the 4×400 metre, Mr. Bedard had the opportunity to race with his mentor Sebastien, a two-time gold champ from Quebec who gave the relay team good pointers. “I’m really proud of the guys,” he said of his team.

    Matthew Bedard proudly shows off his medals to his grandfather, Douglas Slack.

    In the 1,600 metre race, Mr. Bedard faced the problem of having little snow to race with. The athletes had to do some extra time around the track for makeup for the impediment, he noted. But the race for the gold medal between a Russian athlete and Sebastien made the event an exciting one.

    “I’ve never been that far east and I am really glad that me and Kelsey went,” he added. “I was really happy to compete.”

    “Team Canada is all about supporting each other, and we were happy to be a part of Team Canada,” Mr. Bedard said. “At some point the medals don’t matter, but rather it’s about how you can improve.”

    Soon the two Manitowaning athletes will begin training for track and field at Manitoulin Secondary School. Mr. Bedard will be training for the 1,500 metre, 800 metre and 400 metre. “Mainly, my focus is running,” he said.

    “It’s nice to travel somewhere, but it’s also nice to come home,” Mr. Bedard said before heading out to collect some sap.