A group of P.E.I. Special Olympians will have to wait a little longer than usual to find out if they will have the opportunity to represent Canada on the international stage.
Team P.E.I. had a strong showing at the recent Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay, Ont. This is a qualifying event for selecting Team Canada’s roster for the Special Olympics World Games, which are scheduled to held in 2021. Sweden was originally scheduled to host the World Winter Games but withdrew in late December.
“At this point we have that happening and coinciding with what our reality is today, there has not been a lot of movement,” said Special Olympics P.E.I. executive director Charity Sheehan, who feels there are some strong candidates from P.E.I. for Team Canada. “We did find out there were a couple of locations interested in hosting and we don’t know who they are.
“It will take place in 2021, but not in the first quarter as originally scheduled. It will probably be more in the fourth quarter to give (organizers) more time. Now with what’s happening today, that could even be pushed back a little bit farther in terms of travel and international travel.”
P.E.I. was represented by 38 athletes at the National Winter Games and won 25 medals, including 11 gold, eight silver and six bronze. P.E.I. athletes competed in five sports – floor hockey, figure skating, curling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
“It was one of our bigger groups for a Winter Games,” said Team P.E.I. chef de mission Matthew McNally. “We had two speed skating athletes and we haven't had that sport represented for several years.
“We were excited to have that sport back on the docket. The sport of a fivepin bowling moved from a summer sport rotation to a winter sport and we had two teams, which added to our larger number as well.”
P.E.I. medal winners at Special Olympics Canada National Winter Games:
Jamie Trowsdale, gold.
Jonathan Watts, gold.
Rolanda Bridges, gold
Team Black, gold.
Heidi Mallett, silver.
Eric Smith, bronze.
Jennifer MacGuigan, bronze.
Joni Miner, bronze.
Tommy Ling, gold, silver.
Ellen MacNearney, two silver, one bronze.
Alyssa Chapman, bronze.
Team P.E.I., gold.
Cameron Gordon, gold.
Christi-Joe (CJ) Snyders-Couchman, gold, silver, bronze
Jordan Koughan, gold, three silver.
Logan Robbins, gold, bronze.
McNally and Sheehan were thrilled to see P.E.I. athletes set 20 personal bests.
“That’s really what our coaches and athletes focus on,” said McNally. “True to the athlete oath, ‘Let me win, but if I can’t win, let me brave in the attempt.’
“What we drive home to the athletes is to give it your best and to come out with a high double-digit number (of personal bests), we were excited about that.”
Sheehan said it is very satisfying to watch athletes record personal-best performances.
“That was probably the biggest story,” said Sheehan. “Medals are what everybody kind of looks for, but the bigger story is the constant improvement our athletes had during the week.
“That could have been from the Provincial Games a year ago to now, or what they did on Monday to Saturday by just (continuing) to improve. That energy and experience from being at the National Games gives you a little extra something when you are in the moment.”
- Personal-best performances by P.E.I. at Special Olympics Canada National Winter Games:
- Five-Pin Bowling
- Jennifer MacGuigan, one.
- Jonathan Watts, two.
- Cross-County Skiing
- Tommy Ling, two.
- Cameron Gordon, two.
- Christi-Joe (CJ) Snyders-Couchman, two.
- Speed Skating
- Logan Robbins, four.
- Jordan Koughan, seven.
Selected in 2019
To illustrate the commitment of the athletes, Team P.E.I. was selected in June 2019 and from that point forward athletes committed to training a minimum of three times a week in their sport, including some cross-training.
“Some athletes trained more and I know some trained up to five days a week,” said McNally “We had several team events that they were expected to be at, too, where we did some group training and testing.”
Athletes also participated in mental training.
“I think we had seven athletes at the nationals for the first time, so this was processing what that level of competition would look like for them,” explained McNally. “Also, managing excitement and preparing for the negative things that can come with competition. The team felt prepared.”
McNally said he felt very privileged to be part of Team P.E.I. and watch the evolution of the athletes from the Provincial Games that took place a little over a year ago.
“Just getting to know each one of them a little bit more is a highlight and it’s always inspiring to see the determination that they have,” said McNally. “To see them have the opportunity to showcase their abilities on the national level is always very encouraging.
“I look forward to seeing how they take this experience back to P.E.I. and become leaders for other athletes who have the same aspirations.”