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were brought to Chicago by Harold Smith to represent Canada at the first International Special Olympics in 1968

Team Canada

Special Olympics Team Canada bocce makes history


The first-ever Special Olympics Team Canada bocce team to compete at the World Games level is going home with some hardware. On Monday, July 27, Team Canada athletes Margaret Burnell, Chad Conlon, Lynden Hicks, and Ben Willms of B.C. won bronze in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games bocce team competition, earning Canada’s first-ever World Games bocce medals.

That history-making set of medals led the way in another strong day for Canada in Los Angeles. Rhythmic gymnasts Ashley Wilwand of Manitoba and Celine LaBrecque of Ontario shone in their events, with Wilwand earning one gold medal, two silver, and one bronze in Level 3 competition, and LaBrecque capturing two gold and one silver in Level 2 events. And the Special Olympics Team Canada swimmers had another banner day in the pool, achieving six medals and four personal-best times.

Bocce player Burnell went into the World Games confident that her team could reach the podium, after they won gold in the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games in Vancouver. That performance qualified them for the world stage.

“I was so happy to win,” said Burnell, who is the eldest member of Special Olympics Team Canada at age 69. (The team’s youngest athlete is 14.) While competing, she thought about making her country proud.

“I was doing something for Canada,” Burnell said.

Her teammates feel tremendous national pride too. Conlon and their teammate Kevin Ellis have attracted global attention for their tattoos on their left calves: the Special Olympics Team Canada 2015 logo. Willms said it is an “amazing, awesome experience representing your country.”

Going into the Games, Willms wasn’t as certain as Burnell that they would be able to medal; just being at the World Games felt incredible already. Standing on the podium, he relished the moment.

“I was just so happy to be up there. Winning a bronze medal among 96 teams, that’s amazing. And I was thinking how proud I am of all of us,” Willms said.

The team of four completed play on Sunday, July 26 (read the recap of their exciting games in our Sunday story: [links]) and had to wait until Monday for final confirmation of their placing and the presentation of their precious medals.

While the team had some tight games, including a 12-11 nailbiter loss in an extra end, Burnell said she never gets stressed. She enjoys her Special Olympics sports, focusing on having fun and meeting other people.

“That was fun!” she said of the high-pressure 12-11 game where Canada tied the match 11-11 just before time ran out, sending it into an extra end.

Monday afternoon saw the Special Olympics Team Canada bocce players begin singles play. These World Games will see the Canadian athletes playing singles and doubles bocce events for the first time.

Conlon opened with a huge come-from-behind win, going down 5-0 before steadily drawing back into a tie and then racking up points for a 12-5 win. Ellis had a narrow 8-7 loss that also include an exciting comeback, as he was down 6-0 before clawing his way back into the match to tie the game at seven when time ran out; his opponent was awarded the win by being closest to the pallina at the time.

“It’s really different, more challenging,” Ellis said of singles bocce play. “I was nervous for the first two frames.” Then he was able to focus and block out the big crowd and all distractions in the L.A. Convention Centre. “That’s what caught me up.”

Hicks rolled easily to a 14-3 win in his first game and held on for a 5-4 win in his tight second game. While he was playing his second match, a volunteer stopped to comment on how much she likes Special Olympics Team Canada bocce, because they are so polite and have the “cute” team tattoos!

Elsewhere in Team Canada action:

Rhythmic gymnastics

Special Olympics Team Canada’s fabulous Level 2 rhythmic gymnasts delivered outstanding performances in multiple disciplines, and racked up a range of fabulous results. Ashley Wilwand of Manitoba and Celine LaBrecque of Ontario shone in their events, with Wilwand earning one gold medal, two silver, and one bronze, and LaBrecque capturing two gold and one silver.

Competition continues on Tuesday, July 28, with Ontario’s Kimana Mar, Emily Boycott, and Christina Judd-Campbell competing in individual events, Mar in Level 1 and Boycott and Judd-Campbell in Level 4. In addition, Boycott, LaBrecque, Mar, and Wilwand will compete in a group ball routine, an exciting step as this is the first time this event will be in the World Games. Judd-Campbell has supported the group in a coaching role, working alongside the Team Canada coaches.

Swimming

Special Olympics Team Canada swimmers excelled in the pool again on July 27, delivering outstanding performances in the 100-metre freestyle finals. Team Canada’s 100m free results:

  • Avery Newton, B.C., gold, with a time four seconds faster than her divisioning time the day before
  • Elliott Moskowy, Alberta, gold, first of two gold medals earned in the same day by this hardworking athlete
  • Connor Bissett, Alberta, silver
  • Julia Longo, Ontario, silver
  • Eleanor Hobbs, Newfoundland and Labrador, bronze. Head Coach Alain Maillé noted that she had to be helped out of the water after she raced because “she gave everything she had.”
  • April Lam, Alberta, 6th
  • Valérie Gagnon-Paradis, Quebec, 7th
  • Lexie Senior, Ontario, 7th

The Special Olympics Team Canada men’s 4x100m medley relay team followed up that fine showing by winning gold with a dominating performance in their division. Moskowy joined B.C.’s Magnus Batara, Quebec’s Andrew Perez, and Saskatchewan’s Michael Qing to finish in a time of 5:02.77, two minutes faster than the silver-medal-winning team!

Tuesday, July 28, the team swims divisioning events in the morning, followed by afternoon finals for 400m freestyle, 50m freestyle, 100m butterfly, and 4x100m freestyle relay.

Soccer

Special Olympics Team Canada’s soccer team had a thrilling first competition match against Argentina on July 27. Argentina went up 1-0 early on a goal that was rather lucky, and the teams then battled back and forth throughout most of the 90 minutes. In the last minute, Canada earned a penalty kick and Bryce Schaufelberger scored under pressure, achieving the 1-1 draw.

Team Canada continues play July 28 with a 9 a.m. PST match against Costa Rica, followed by two games on July 30, a 9 a.m. match against Iran and 11 a.m. game with Australia.

10-pin bowling

Special Olympics Team Canada’s bowlers lit up the lanes in divisioning play at Lucky Strike LA Live on Monday. They were thrilled to start competing and bowled extremely well. Competition begins on Tuesday, July 28, in team and doubles play.

Athletics

During a day of divisioning, the athletes shone with outstanding performances in what coaches referred to as another spectacular day on the track. On Tuesday, July 28, they will participate in divisioning for five more events before kicking back into competition gear on Wednesday, July 29.

Basketball

The first-ever Special Olympics Team Canada basketball team’s competition play begins on Tuesday, July 28, with a game at 12:45 p.m. Their next two round-robin games will be held 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 29, and 3 p.m. on Thursday, July 30 (all times PST).

Golf

Competition starts on Tuesday, July 28, for Canada’s first Special Olympics World Games golf team! On July 26 they had the chance to get out on the Wilson & Harding Municipal Golf Courses for a practice round. Kyle Grummett, the team’s lone 18-hole golfer, shot a great 78 and sunk an eagle on hole 6 with a hole out from four feet off the green.

Powerlifting

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. PST.

Softball

Special Olympics Team Canada softball players won their first divisioning game on July 26, and went on to win their two divisioning games on July 27. After their win against USA Missouri in the morning, Team Canada came from behind to edge a very tough Team India 11-10 . They play one more divisioning game on July 28 at 9 a.m. PST.

Follow @SpecialOCanada #SOTeamCanada15 #ÉquipeOSCanada15 for live updates throughout the World Games!