Special Olympians bring home five medals from National Winter Games

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

MANITOULIN—Three Manitoulin Special Olympics (MSO) snowshoers, members of Team Ontario in the National Winter Games, brought home five medals, including three gold, from the competition, held in St. Alberta, Alberta.

“They did awesome,” stated Judy Olacke, who is not only the coach of the MSO Special Olympics but was one of 12 coaches for the Ontario team at the winter games competition. “We (garnered) five medals, three gold, a silver and a bronze.”

Kelsey Mellan led the way with two gold medals, in the 100 and 200 metre race, while Regan Millsap brought home a gold medal in the 200 metre race and a bronze medal in the 100 metre race. Not to be outdone, Randy Corbiere garnered a silver in the 400 metre race in his division.

“It is hard to express how inspiring the whole event was, to go out as individuals with the other athletes and coaches from Ontario and then compete and comeback as Team Ontario, having made friends with everyone on the team, and the other teams from other provinces who competed. It was so inspiring,” said Ms. Olacke. She pointed out Team Ontario was pampered by Special Olympics Ontario and Special Olympics Canada. “Everything was so organized, and they provide for a lot of fun activities between the competition, and we ate good, healthy food.”

“And you could feel the support of the community in the stands, and just walking around in the community, people asking about us and supporting and encouraging us, it was amazing,” said Ms. Olacke. “That is one of the reasons I love going to these kind of events and the camaraderie among the teams. I saw one race where there were two athletes on the same team, with one in the lead in the race, who all of a sudden backed off and encouraged his other teammate to pass him, all the time yelling encouragement to ‘go for the gold’.”

“I was so proud of our athletes and how well they excelled,” continued Ms. Olacke.

“The competition was way more intense than I expected,” said Regan Millsap. “I was really nervous and excited and it was cool meeting people from across Canada. I’ve never been out west and it was amazing to be in Alberta. I even had the chance to go to the West Edmonton Mall with my mother and sister.”

Ms. Olacke pointed out there was probably 1,000 athletes who took part in total in all the winter game sports, which include alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, speed skating, figure skating, snow-shoeing, floor hockey and curling.

Many of the athletes who fared well at the National Games will be selected to represent Canada at the world games to be held in 2013 next year in South Korea. “It’s a complicated process to represent Canada at the World’s,” said Ms. Olacke, noting it will probably be at least this summer before the athletes are chosen for Team Canada.

The total Team Ontario medal count (taking in all seven sports competed in) unofficially, saw them win 69 gold, 64 silver, and 56 bronze medals, pointed out Ms. Olacke. “We (Ontario) had one of the biggest teams, and with our beautiful team uniforms on that were supplied, we were like a sea of red. In just snowshoeing alone we had 34 athletes take part with the next highest contingent being from Manitoba who had 18 snowshoers.”

The Games started on February 27 and concluded on Saturday, March 3.

“The opening ceremonies to the games was incredible, there were a lot of big names and celebrities from the Edmonton area, hockey players, musicians and many others on hand, it was incredible,” said Ms. Olacke. “And there was a Torch Run held involving the local police forces coming into the arena carrying the torches. Everything that was done for the opening and closing of the games, and the competition, gave everyone a whole, full Olympic experience.”