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Birthday bliss for snowshoeing athletes at World Games

One of the 10 gold medals earned by Special Olympics Team Canada athletes on Saturday, February 2, made for a unique 40th birthday celebration for snowshoeing athlete Cindy Collins.

Amid the flurry of 10 gold, nine silver, and eight bronze medals earned on February 2 by Special Olympics Team Canada athletes in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, snowshoeing, and speed skating, Collins captured gold in the 100-metre snowshoe race to earn a birthday bauble.

Port Elgin, Ont.’s Collins shares the birthday with her teammate Sheryl Jakubowski of Fort St. John, B.C., who turned 44 February 2 while finishing fifth in the 800m event. Both athletes were proud that they beat their times from their races at last year’s National Games. They are also both experiencing their first-ever trips outside of Canada for this World Games.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get to go to the Worlds, let alone win a gold medal,” Collins said.

Collins and Jakubowski also share the quality of dedication, having trained very hard on and off snow to be at their best at the World Games at the World Games.

“I was training on the beach in snowshoes in the summer,” Collins said. “People thought I was crazy. We had to explain to them that I’m going to the World Games.”



Speed skaters Stephen Graham and Kathryn Saunders became the team’s first winners of dual medals when they both struck gold in the 777m event, taking them to two apiece after they won gold (Graham) and silver (Saunders) in February 1’s 500m race. Graham and Saunders also joined Special Olympics Team Canada Honorary Head Coach Catriona Le May Doan for a fun relay race with athletes and all-star fans including Olympians like Le May Doan and Apolo Ohno.

Overall the speed skaters earned three gold, one silver, and one bronze medal. Manitoba’s Beth Prendergast was taken out of the lineup for a day due to illness, but she returned February 2 to snag bronze in the 111m race. B.C.’s Sean Casey raced to gold in his 111m race, and Cynthia Simmons of the Northwest Territories earned a silver medal in the 777m.

Elsewhere in on-ice news, all 10 of the Special Olympics Team Canada figure skaters who have competed in final events over the last two days have wound up walking away with hardware hanging around their necks.

“Every skater who skated in the last two days has won a medal,” Head Coach Julie Dunlop reported with pride.

Check out the latest installment of The Greek Report to catch up on all your floor hockey action.

Also in snowshoeing, Manitoba’s Ashlee McLeod captured gold in the tough 800m race, and Regan Millsap, Jeff Pike, and Matthieu Besnier medalled in the exciting 100m sprint. Their teammates delivered a number of gutsy performances, like Quebec athlete Jessica Larivee who received her fifth-place ribbon with great pride, cheering and crying with happiness because she had beaten her own time.

Elsewhere on snow, after the rain-caused cancellations of February 1, Special Olympics Team Canada’s alpine and cross-country skiers returned yesterday ready and raring to race.

Both groups of skiers did the team very proud, with eight alpine skiers earning medals in the super G, three cross-country skiers attaining two medals and one fourth-place finish in the tough five-kilometre race, and the rest skiing with great determination and passion. For skiers such as Gabrielle Theriault and Avery Newman, who finished fifth and seventh, respectively, their faces showed that the ribbons meant every bit as much to them as a medal.

Watch Alberta alpine skier Larry Green’s remarks to the crowd of supporters as he received his super G bronze medal:

On the cross-country ski course, Alberta’s Shane Stewart struck gold despite a navigational error that cost him a chunk of time. In the two-lap race, at the end of his final lap, Stewart at first skied into the track to take another lap instead of the track heading for the finish line. His speed was such that he still managed to capture gold.

Special Olympics Team Canada / Équipe Olympiques spéciaux Canada Competition Day 4
At the medal ceremony, Stewart’s father Howard said his parents ran the whole gamut of emotions watching that race, with the near-miss, and they are so proud of their dedicated and hardworking athlete son.

“He trains six days a week, and we have to force him to take the seventh off. Sometimes he sneaks out for a run then,” Howard said. “He’s proud of what he does and the accomplishments he has made, and he works so hard.”

Ontario’s Steve Caban won bronze and Rachelle Barbeau finished a strong fourth in the 5km event.

Jonathan Robins of Cranbrook, B.C., earned his super G bronze – his first-ever World Games medal – on the day that in Canada was his sister Deanna’s birthday. Deanna, her parents and husband waited with the large crowd to watch a beaming Jonathan give his signature grin and thumbs-up as he received his medal.

Asked how he felt immediately after the medal presentation, surrounded by his family, Robins instantly answered with one word: “happiness!”

Our results page highlights the accomplishments of each Canadian athlete. For further details such as race times, visit the official Games website or the SONA results database searchable by individual athlete name.