Special Olympics Team Canada’s first medals earned on the track and in the pool
As a child, Special Olympics Team Canada swimmer Joshua Low survived two major heart surgeries and leukemia. He was told he would never be able to play sports. On Sunday, July 26, he became Canada’s first gold medallist at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.
Low turned on the jets in his 25-metre backstroke final and powered to a first-place finish in his division on Sunday afternoon, achieving a personal-best time. Low and seven teammates swam PB times in their July 26 finals, and they won seven medals total in a super Sunday for Special Olympics Team Canada at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatic Centre.
Low said he never expected to win a gold medal at the 2015 World Games, and it felt good.
“I’m the first person to win gold for Team Canada!” he marvelled while leaving the pool with the shiny gold medal hanging around his neck.
Despite the illnesses he had to endure as a child, all Low wanted to do was play sports, so his family enrolled him in Special Olympics youth programs in their B.C. hometown of Langley at age 12. Low has progressed into traditional Special Olympics programs and achieved great success in competitions. He qualified for a berth on Special Olympics Team Canada 2015 through his strong performance at the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games in his home province, bringing him to Los Angeles and his World Games gold.
Special Olympics Team Canada’s other final results in the pool on Sunday:
- Alberta’s Connor Bissett won a silver medal in the 50-metre breaststroke. One of Team Canada’s three youngest athletes at age 14, Bissett earned his podium spot with a personal-best time.
- April Lam of Alberta achieved a fourth-place finish in the 100-metre backstroke and she too notched a personal-best time.
- Michael Qing of Saskatchewan struck silver in his 200-metre Individual Medley race, while Andrew Perez of Quebec captured fourth place, and both swimmers achieved personal-best times. Qing said the medal “feels good,” but he wasn’t thinking about the podium while he was racing – he was trying for a strong time and perfect technique. He was “pretty satisfied” with the result. Matthew Hunter, the team’s lone athlete from Nova Scotia, also raced with strength and pride in the 200-metre IM.
- Amanda Schleppe of B.C. earned to a bronze medal in the 50-metre breaststroke. Competing in her first World Games, Schleppe was able to shake off nerves and power to personal-best times both in her divisioning and final.
- Bill Smith of Ontario and Valmor Quitich of Quebec won silver and bronze medals, respectively, in the 25-metre backstroke, and Smith notched a PB.
- David Tatta of New Brunswick, the lone SONB athlete on Team Canada, won a silver medal in the 100-metre backstroke with a personal-best time.
- Kelsey Wyse of B.C. achieved a fourth-place finish in her 200-metre IM race. The day also saw her spend time chatting poolside with Olympian Michael Phelps and Paralympian Victoria Arlen for an ESPN segment. Tune in to the World Games recap shows airing nightly on TSN and RDS to catch the conversation between these decorated swimmers set to air on Monday, July 27.
Special Olympics Team Canada swimming Head Coach Alain Maillé said the medal-winning performances by Low and his teammates showed how important it is to “never give up.” Low and several teammates did so well in their divisioning heats that they landed in faster divisions than expected. Low went into his final seeded last in his division, and still came away with the gold.
A stone’s throw away at USC’s Loker Stadium, athletics athlete Mandy Manzardo of B.C. got things rolling on Sunday morning by winning Special Olympics Team Canada’s first medal of the 2015 World Games, a bronze medal in the 10,000-metre run. In that event, Manzardo and Maxime Duguay of Quebec became the first Special Olympics Canada athletes to compete in the 10,000-metre distance.
The athletics team’s day also included strong divisioning performances, and meeting up with Team Haiti to give gifts of clothes and goods they had donated and gathered to support the Haitian team. Special Olympics Team Canada athletics coach Deborah Carter has a strong personal connection with Haiti. She adopted her lovely daughter Alyssah from Haiti nearly 20 years ago, and Carter made a point of seeking out the Haitian delegation at the 2015 World Games.
While Special Olympics Team Canada was in the World Games welcome centre, Carter was looking for Haiti but couldn’t find them. She thought she had missed them, but then Team Canada athletics athletes pointed out the delegation, leading to a powerful moment of connection. “They [the athletes] made my trip,” she said gratefully.
Carter organized the team’s donations of items Team Haiti could use, and the athletics crew met up with Team Haiti Sunday to deliver the presents.
“We have left a legacy for Team Canada, one we can all be proud of,” Carter said.
At the LA Convention Centre, Special Olympics Team Canada’s first-ever bocce team rolled through three thrilling games of team competition on July 26. Even though this is their first time at the World Games, their play in the divisioning round placed them in the top division out of the 96 teams in the event.
Special Olympics Team Canada bocce won their first game 9-4 over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, in an exciting matchup where they led the whole time but felt their opponents could score at any time.
“They came to play. They were totally focused right from the get go,” Head Coach Dona Cade said of the team.
While they faltered slightly in the second game, losing 7-4 to Trinidad and Tobago, they rebounded for a thrilling third match of the day against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines again. This time Special Olympics Team Canada had to power back from a miscue at the beginning, but they managed to fight their way back into the game and it became an excellent match with great plays and both teams pushing each other to excel.
Special Olympics Team Canada managed to tie the score 11-11 just as the clock ran out, sending the game into overtime. In the extra end, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines managed to come out on top, winning 12-11.
“All in all, they did extremely well,” Cade said.
Monday, July 27, will see the conclusion of bocce team action and the beginning of singles and doubles play, an exciting undertaking for the Special Olympics Team Canada players because they have previously only played in the four-person team format.
Elsewhere in Team Canada action:
Special Olympics Team Canada’s bowlers are set to begin their divisioning play on Monday, July 27, and will be starting competition soon thereafter.
The first-ever Special Olympics Team Canada basketball team opened competition on July 26 with their divisioning games, earning three wins, two losses, and one tie. Their play will continue on Tuesday, July 28.
Competition starts on Tuesday, July 28, for Canada’s first Special Olympics World Games golf team! On July 26 they visited the Games Healthy Athletes screenings and came away with free shoes and valuable giveaways and advice.
Special Olympics Team Canada’s powerlifters are pumped to compete and will begin Thursday. B.C.’s Joanne Bunnin will compete Thursday, July 30, and Ontario’s André Goulet and Paul Perreault will lift Friday July 31, both 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. PST. Newfoundland and Labrador’s Jackie Barrett is set to compete Saturday, August 1, from 3 to 7 p.m.
The Special Olympics Team Canada rhythmic gymnasts performed beautifully in their divisioning on July 26, and July 27 involves divisioning for Level 1 and the start of competition for Level 2 athletes. The World Games media department reported that it was standing-room only for divisioning! “The energy level was high from the moment the doors were opened at 0900,” they said in a media communique. “Collins Court in the John Wooden Center at UCLA was filled to capacity with 900 spectators less than an hour later, with 100-150 more waiting to get in on a constant basis all day.”
Special Olympics Team Canada’s soccer team played divisioning games on July 25 and 26, tying Venezuela 1-1 and beating Isle of Man 1-0. Their first competition games are set: July 27: 10 a.m. vs Argentina, July 28: 9 a.m. vs Costa Rica, and July 30: 9 a.m. vs Iran, 11 a.m. vs Australia.
Special Olympics Team Canada softball players won their first divisioning game on July 26, and six team members also participated in a Unified Experience game along with celebrities. B.C.’s Brad Hogan, playing right field, had a standout moment where a celebrity player crushed the ball and he hauled it in at the wall! The team continues divisioning with two games on Monday, July 27.