Manitoulin Special Olympians bring home national gold, silver and bronze

CORNER BROOK, Nfld.—The Manitoulin Special Olympic (MSO) athletes have returned from competing in the 2016 Special Olympics National Winter Games as part of Team Ontario, bringing home five gold, one silver and two bronze medals.

The Manitoulin snowshoeing team consisted of Dayne Tipper, Kelsey Mellan and Matthew Bedard and coach Judy Olacke.

Dayne Tipper received a bronze medal in both the 1,600 and 800 metre races, while Kelsey Mellan received gold in both the 100 and 200 metre races and Matthew Bedard received gold in the 1,600, 800 and 400 metre races.

“They did really well,” Ms. Olacke told The Expositor. “They were really competitive races and all three athletes had personal best times for all of the races because of their hard training. They battled through tough conditions of high winds and snow. The conditions were really challenging and one day the races even had to be cancelled.”

Ms. Olacke explained that the trails were in such bad shape one day that the local media called out to the community to come help, with 50 volunteers bringing snow shovels to fix the trails.

“Dayne was sick the last day, but really showed tenacity competing in his race,” added Ms. Olacke.

The Manitoulin curling team including skip Regan Millsap, vice Rebecca Strain, second Randy Corbiere, lead Andrew Splawanyk, alternate Jeff Panamick and coaches Nancy Leeson and Ellen Holroyd also did well at Nationals, receiving silver in the A division.

“The team they lost to in the finals, Saskatchewan, had been to the Nationals three times and this was their first gold,” said Ms. Leeson. “Silver in the A division was a real accomplishment for such a young team. They performed really well and Ellen and I are just so proud of them.”

 “We are really proud of all the athletes and their positive attitudes and hard work.”

The Manitoulin rink’s hard work during the division rounds on Wednesday put them in the A division and during the round robin the team only lost one game, which took them to the finals against the experienced Saskatchewan team.

“It was an amazing week,” skip Regan said,  “but I’m glad to be home. It was a long week full of earlier mornings, 8 am, and late nights. When we weren’t playing, we had a little time to watch some of the other sports such as figure skating and speed skating, which was nice, but mostly we were going from the rink to the hotel and back. Saskatchewan was a good team. Our team worked really well together and we are excited to be second in the nation. We are looking forward to working hard over the next couple years and heading back to Nationals again to kick some butt.”

“All the athletes did super amazing,” commented MSO coordinator Janet Anning. “It was a fantastic trip. We are really proud of all the athletes and their positive attitudes and hard work. We are also really thankful for the family and friends that came out to support the athletes and cheer them on.”

Ms. Anning said that the MSO snowshoers may go on to represent Canada at the Special Olympic World Games in Austria next year, but that there is no curling at the world games.

Up next, Ms. Anning said MSO athletes Yuri Clayton and Rodger Howard will be joining their Elliot Lake teammates to compete at the Ontario Provincial Spring Games in Guelph May 26-28.