50 moments: SOBC introduces winter sports scene

Special Olympics snowshoers

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics, we are taking a look back at the #50moments that have defined the movement here in B.C. and throughout the world.

Back in 1987, the world of winter sports opened up for Special Olympics BC athletes. SOBC kicked off winter sport participation by launching alpine skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and speed skating.

The addition of winter sports created year-round opportunities with these empowering programs through which athletes could train, stay active, help their health, and build confidence, friendships, and skills. It also opened up additional empowering competitions. SOBC hosted Winter Sports Championships in 1987 for alpine and cross country skiing and speed skating, held in Mount Seymour and Cypress Bowl. Athletes who competed in those inaugural provincial winter sport championships became eligible for selection to the 1988 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Edmunston, New Brunswick.

In the world of sticks and pucks, hockey legend Howie Meeker helped out emerging Special Olympics BC floor hockey players by offering a floor hockey clinic for SOBC athletes in 1987. That same year, SOBC sent a floor hockey team to an international tournament dubbed the “Little Stanley Cup” in Toronto.

Today, Special Olympics BC joins SO programs across Canada in offering eight winter sports: alpine skiing, cross country skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing, speed skating, and (newly added to the winter sport cycle as of 2017-18) 5-pin bowling. Of those, six are included in the Special Olympics World Winter Games – curling and 5-pin bowling do not have the same popularity outside of Canada so they are not part of international competition.

And now we are looking forward to the biggest SOBC Provincial Winter Games ever, coming to Greater Vernon February 21 to 23! With 5-pin bowling changing teams and becoming a winter sport, the 2019 Special Olympics BC Winter Games will include all eight winter sports and just over 800 athletes with intellectual disabilities, coaches, and mission staff. We can’t wait!