ANTIGONISH, N.S. – The Special Olympics P.E.I. soccer team is a perfect example of what can be achieved through hard work.
The squad, comprised of 11 players and three coaches, returned home on Sunday with the gold medal from the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games in Antigonish, N.S.
“The last Games we were at in Vancouver in 2014, I don’t think we scored a goal,” said P.E.I. co-head coach Terry Nabuurs in a phone interview with the Journal Pioneer on Saturday evening. “They have been training for the last four years, and our goal was to come into these Games and at least have a fighting chance of being a contender in a few games.
“They ended up not scoring a goal, but winning games and winning the whole thing. It was a pretty incredible thing to watch.”
P.E.I., which had an overall mark of 5-0-2 (won-lost-tied) en route to winning the Blue Division, outscored their opposition 24-8.
P.E.I. capped its undefeated week with a convincing 6-1 victory over Team Yukon on the gold-medal game on Saturday.
“They played really well,” assessed Nabuurs. “We gave them a little pep talk (before the game) talking about how much work they put into training over the last four years, especially this last year. We put expectations on them to train three times a week, and even more leading up to the Games the last couple of months.
“We asked them to take that into account when they were playing, and to leave everything on the field. They all stepped up to the plate. . . Everyone showed a lot of heart, and they all went above and beyond in leaving everything on the field.”
P.E.I. and Yukon were certainly no strangers to each other.
“We played them twice in the divisioning and competition round,” said P.E.I. chef de mission Matthew McNally referring to P.E.I.’s 5-3 and 3-0 victories. “It was a tight matchup every time we played them, and it was a lot of fun to watch.
“The stands were packed with fans wearing purple (Yukon) and green (P.E.I.), and it was non-stop cheering. It was one of the best moments for me of the Games, seeing the camaraderie of both teams coming together and enjoying the sport of soccer.”
P.E.I.’s softball team earned a bronze medal on Saturday, defeating British Columbia (Vancouver) 8-2 in the third-place game in the Yellow Division.
The Island squad went 2-1 in the divisioning round and went 2-2 in division play to finish with an overall record of 4-3.
Softball team members include Aaron Myers, Brandon Younker, Billy Acorn, Brian McNab, Cedric Gallant, Chris MacPherson, Glendon Arsenault, Jerred Affleck, John Morton, Lisa Bernard, Sherry Hiscock, Tommy MacGuigan and Wallace MacMaster.
“We are really proud of the leadership of (head coach) Judy Gallant of her support staff of (assistant coaches) Alan Stewart and Jamie Henry,” said McNally. “The team battled through some tough losses this week, but fought hard to make sure they won the bronze. They played really well and I’m really proud of how far their fielding has come, and how they came together and won this medal as a team. It’s nice to end the week on a win.”
P.E.I. team results at Special Olympics Canada Summer Games:
P.E.I. 3 Yukon 0
P.E.I. 5 Ontario (Peterborough) 0
P.E.I. 0 Ontario (Mississauga) 0
P.E.I. 5 Yukon 3
P.E.I. 2 Ontario (Mississauga) 0
P.E.I. 4 Ontario (Peterborough) 4
P.E.I. 5 Yukon 3
P.E.I. 5 Saskatchewan 2
P.E.I. 8 British Columbia (Vancouver) 6
Ontario (Alnaguin) 8 P.E.I. 1
Alberta 18 P.E.I. 7
Saskatchewan 20 P.E.I. 2
P.E.I. 13 British Columbia (Vancouver) 7
P.E.I. 8 British Columbia (Vancouver) 2