Athlete and coach selected for Team Canada training squad
MANITOULIN – The Manitoulin Special Olympics (MSO) team has had one of its athletes and a coach selected to Team Canada’s 2022 Special Olympics training squad, which will compete in the Special Olympics World Winter Games next year.
MSO athlete Matthew Bedard of Assiginack has been selected for the snowshoeing team, along with his coach Katherine Tipper.
“My coaches, both Katherine (Tipper) and Janet (Anning) had told me I had been selected to Team Canada. It is very exciting,” stated Mr. Bedard when contacted by the Recorder on Tuesday. “It is very exciting, but it also puts me into the mode of making sure I continue to work hard and stay active, and eat healthy to be ready.”
“It’s great, and this is a wonderful opportunity to visit and compete in another country,” Mr. Bedard pointed out, noting he had competed in the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria in 2017 and the 2022 games are slated to be held in Russia.
“If anyone is deserving of being selected for the world games it is Matthew, who continues to train and work hard to stay in shape,” said Ms. Anning, co-ordinator and coach of the MSO team. “It is great for Katherine (Tipper) to be named as well, she is a great coach and has been Matthew’s training coach since Judy Olacke moved away last year.”
“It is great and hopefully things will go ahead next January in Russia,” said Ms. Anning.
Ms. Tipper told the Recorder that she will continue as Mr. Bedard’s training coach over the next year, but will not actually be going to Russia with Team Canada in 2022. “Team Canada has a head coach and several community coaches. I will be continuing to do the one-on-one coaching with Matthew here on the Island.”
“I coached alongside Judy (Olacke) for years and have big shoes to fill,” said Ms. Tipper. “It’s exciting and I’m so thankful to have worked with Judy and Janet over the years.”
“I’m excited about all of this, I’ve been with the (MSO) team coaching in the background with the snowshoe team for several years,” said Ms. Tipper. “And I’m excited to get going on continuing to help Matthew over the year.”
Ms. Tipper praised Mr. Bedard as the type of athlete any coach would be happy working with. “He’s so diligent, focused and ready to do whatever you ask of him as an athlete. I’m the lucky one to get to work with him. He has such a sense of humour and keeps you on your feet.”
In the 2020 National Special Olympic Winter Games in Thunder Bay, Mr. Bedard garnered one gold and two silver medals in the competition. He was first in his five-kilometre race (snowshoe), in a personal best time of 22:29.70, second in the 800-metre with a personal best time of 02:59.90, and second in the 400-metre race, with again a personal best time of 01:16.80.
Mr. Bedard was named the male athlete of the year for Ontario Special Olympics in 2019.
“Naming the (Special Olympics Team Canada) 2022 training squad is a beam of positivity and hope in a very uncertain and challenging time,” said Chef de Mission Charity Sheehan, in a Special Olympics Canada release. “This opportunity is the pinnacle of years of dedication and hard work by our athletes. I am looking forward to supporting the team on the journey of a lifetime as they reach their full potential.”
“In addition to being excited for the members of the Special Olympics Team Canada 2022 training squad, we are equally excited for the rest of the Special Olympics movement in Canada to join the journey with us,” Ms. Sheehan continued. “Please join us in celebrating all 108 athletes, 48 coaches and mission staff from across Canada who have qualified for the 2022 training squad to represent Canada at the next Special Olympics World Winter Games.”
The National team program—a formal approach to training and preparing the Team Canada training squad—is already underway.