MANITOULIN – The Manitoulin Special Olympics snowshoe team is in Thunder Bay this week, taking part in the 2020 National Special Olympics Winter Games.
“We had our last practice on Wednesday at the Maple Ridge Trails in Mindemoya. Everyone is ready; members of the team have been working hard and they are super pumped,” stated Judy Olacke, coach of the team, last week. The MSO athletes who are taking part in National’s representing Team Ontario includes Matthew Bedard, Dayne Tipper, Mark Dokum, Bruce Van Horn, Norm Daoust and coach Judy Olacke.
“We have a couple of team members who have never been on an airplane, so that will be a new experience for them,” said Ms. Olacke. “And everyone is excited to see their Special Olympics friends that they met at a Special Olympics camp for snow-shoers, in January.”
Based on previous National Games experience, Ms. Olacke pointed out, “the opening ceremonies show is great, and this will take place on Monday. On Tuesday we will be taking part in a team practice, and from Wednesday through Saturday the competition will take place, with different races and divisions.”
For Ms. Olacke this week’s Nationals is the last competition she will be taking part in as an MSO coach. She and her husband Mark, who live in Spring Bay, will be moving to Kingston in May of this year. “It is going to be bittersweet. But I’m really thankful to have this last meet with the team to take part in,” she told the Recorder. “It is the last event I will be participating in for MSO. I don’t know if I will continue in Kingston (with Special Olympics). I don’t think they (Kingston Special Olympics) has snowshoeing on their list of events-teams.”
“I’ve been with MSO for about 15 years,” Ms. Olacke told the Recorder. “I started a snowshoeing program when I worked at Manitoulin Secondary School and then Janet (Anning, MSO coordinator and coach) encouraged me to take on the role of coach for the (MSO) team.”
“We’ve had tremendous support from the local communities, and individuals on the Island,” stated Ms. Olacke. “This includes assistant coaches Katherine and Sean Tipper, Sandy Graham and Roxanne Goulet. And trail groomer Rob Mellan, we couldn’t have great training facilities we have without his grooming the trails at Maple Ridge, and a 400 metre track in the field near it, that he grooms as well.”
Ms. Olacke noted as well the individuals of Community Living Manitoulin (CLM) demonstrated their tremendous support of the MSO team with CLM individuals having made cards for all the MSO athletes and a poster for the team that they presented after the MSO final practice last week.