With last night's (February 8) sold out opening ceremonies at Winsport in Calgary, the 2019 Special Olympics Alberta Winter Games got underway and 20 Airdrie athletes are taking part.
The games, which include the sports of 5-pin bowling, alpine skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey snowshoeing and speed skating are the largest sports event for individuals with intellectual disabilities in the province. 700 athletes from 64 communities in Alberta are involved in the two days of competition.
Sue Farkas-Fillatre serves as the Media Relations Coordinator for Airdrie Special Olympics. She says their contingent is anxious to get the games started in order to show just how hard they've worked for this event.
"They're really pumped, they've been working so hard to get to this day. I know as we've been asking them about it they say 'we want to have fun, but we want to bring home some medals'."
13 of the Airdrie athletes are competing in floor hockey, three are taking part in snowshoeing while four are involved in bowling.
The games are as much a social event for the Special Olympians as they are about the sporting competition. Farkas-Fillatre explains it's also a chance to step outside the box for many of the athletes, saying, "They don't stay at home. They actually go, we're calling it Olympic Village, but they're staying with their teammates in hotels throughout Calgary. So that's a really big step for some of our athletes that have never left their parents or stayed without their parents or caregivers before."
Tonight, following the day's competition, a banquet and dance is on the agenda. Farkas-Fillatre says that is the highlight of the weekend for many of the athletes who absolutely love to dance.
Farkas-Fillatre says for most of the athletes from Airdrie, the games will become an unforgettable experience. "Going back a year, one thing that they can remember is doing qualifying tournaments for this and now showing how their hard work is going to pay off as well as, my goodness, they're going to meet so many more people and they're going to have new friendships that are going to start here. As well as that experience that they're going to have and that independence they're going to gain."
Farkas-Fillatre sends a shout out to all the volunteer and coaches from Airdrie. She says without them, the program couldn't continue.
The games will wrap up with finals and the closing ceremony tomorrow which take place at 3:00 pm at Genesis Place, 755 Falconridge Blvd. No tickets are required to take in the closing ceremony.
On Thursday, the Final Leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics made stops in Airdrie, at Bert Church High School and St. Martin de Porres High School.
The Airdrie athletes who are taking part in the games are:
- Floor Hockey: Kegan Mark, Junhanne Tanner-deLooze, Sebastian Ball, Sean Moore, Luke Petersen, Emmi Petersen, Edward Watts, Emma Ball, Katrina Foreman, Ben Tanner-deLooze, Jayden Riley, Mariah Tanner-deLooze, Tyson Biever
- Bowling: Dallan Ellerby, Bailey Bourget, Jayden Fetterley, A.J. Tarnowski (Heather Frame was scheduled to go but had to withdraw)
- Snowshoeing: Dominic Doucette, Trinity Doucette, Wyatt Doucette
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