Heading for the finish line with excitement and pride in the air
Great golden performances on skinny skis and floor hockey teams bound for finals were among the big stories of the day for Special Olympics Team Canada on Monday, February 4, the second-last day of competition at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
After riding the roller coaster of round robin and preliminary play throughout the days of competition, Team Canada East and West delivered when it counted in Monday’s semifinals. Team Canada East, whose members hail from Newmarket and area, sailed into their semifinal having lost only once in the entire tournament, and not at all in the round-robin play where they won by margins ranging from one to seven goals.
For Dan Jamieson and netminder Jeff Tromp of Guelph, getting to the gold-medal game represents a chance to avenge a heartbreaking gold-medal-game loss to Jamaica in the 2009 World Games. In Boise, Idaho, Jamieson and Tromp made it to the gold-medal game with their Guelph team, and feel they have unfinished business after going down to defeat at the hands of Jamaica.
Jamieson said the individuals on the Newmarket team are a lot of fun to be with, and he’s glad to be with them while pursuing the conviction they have “to get back what was rightfully ours.” One of their 2009 coaches is an official who is working the Games in the Republic of Korea.
Team Canada West of Saskatchewan had a slightly more uneven road to their semifinal, with a 1-2 record in their round robin and ups and downs in their preliminary play, but they too produced an authoritative victorious semifinal result with the gold-medal game on the line. Team Canada West notched a 7-1 win over Singapore to propel themselves into the gold-medal match in style.
“Every player contributes as Canada West looks to be peaking at the right time,” mission staff member Michael Greek observed. Read The Greek Report for full coverage of these exciting semifinal clashes and stay tuned as both teams will go for gold Tuesday morning.
Four gold-medal wins and one sterling silver achievement made the on-snow action at the cross-country track equally exciting. In the one-kilometre event, PEI’s Ellen MacNearney, B.C.’s Shelly Poland, and Alberta’s Jennifer Riddell all struck gold, while Alberta’s Philip Lock claimed silver.
MacNearney says she has been having fun throughout the World Games experience, and one of her favourite parts has been a moment that came out on the tracks: “skiing down the practice hill, because it was fun and I got to dodge some people.”
A proud member of Special Olympics Team Canada, MacNearney has achieved her goal for the Games.
“I’m hoping to do my best and try to win a medal, but if I don’t [medal] it’s OK,” she said early in the Games.
In the 10-kilometre race, Alberta’s Elouise Stewart was the only female athlete in the global field to tackle the tough, hilly 10km course, and she too earned a golden result despite challenging snow and wind conditions.
“She felt like she ran the whole course, but she still did it in personal-best time,” cross-country skiing Associate Coach Holly Burton said.
For Stewart, qualifying for the World Games was the realization of her dreams, and she has given her all in her year of training and preparations to make sure she would be able to make it the best it can be. This is her opportunity, what she has always dreamed she could do, and she wanted to give it her all. Her gritty performance in the 10km bore that out.
“I’m pretty proud of all of them,” Head Coach Don Lavigne said of his cross-country skiers. He noted that the group has already bested the amount of gold medals the cross-country ski team earned in Boise, and there’s still the 2.5km race and relay event to come Tuesday.
Success on the snowshoeing track and in the last speed skating race made for another strong day for Special Olympics Team Canada overall, raking in seven gold, six silver, and two bronze medals.
Racing the 1600-metre event on a beautiful but challenging course, Special Olympics Team Canada snowshoeing athletes delivered very fine performances that showed all the hard work they put in to reach this moment. The seven athletes crossed the finish line after the tough, lengthy race charging hard and making everyone proud.
Manitoba’s Adam Wakeman and Ontario’s Jacob Mathews and Brian Wetzler captured gold in the event, while B.C.’s Hazen Meade and Quebec’s Jessica Larivee raced to silver and B.C.’s Sheryl Jakubowski delivered a bronze. The athletes beamed on the podium, showing their pride in their amazing accomplishments at this Games.
“I got flowers just like in the Olympics!” Larivee told her grandmother in a phone call after she received her medal and rose on the podium.
Wetzler crossed the finish line in first with his arms held high. Since this race isn’t his specialty – Tuesday’s five-kilometre event is, so the 1600m is practically a sprint for him – he surprised even his mother Julie, snowshoeing Head Coach, with the high excellence of his performance.
“He is so pumped. He was ready to go,” Julie Wetzler said.
Associate Coach Maureen Brinson’s eyes were full as she watched the athletes compete with such pride and excellence, particularly Meade, whom she has worked with for 16 years with at home in Campbell River, B.C. “Blazin’ Hazen” is a refrain Brinson has had cause to call out joyfully many times during the Games as Meade has raced hard and made good on the many hours of dedicated training he has logged to be at his best at this moment.
Monday also saw two relay teams in action in the 4x1km event, with the team of Cindy Collins, Kelsey Mellan, Jeremy Mueller and Jeff Pike capturing silver.
Closing out the successful day, the speed skating team won three medals in the 333m event to close out their racing at this Games. Cynthia Simmons and Philip Ste-Marie earned silver medals, and William LeBlanc raced to bronze, while Stephanie Cook finished fourth and Sean Casey fifth.
Head Coach Donna Bilous noted that the team equalled the number of medals won by the speed skaters in Boise. Special Olympics Team Canada’s overall haul of 101 medals in Boise was a record – one that may be beaten Tuesday in the conclusion of the races for alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing, and the floor hockey finals. Stay tuned!