Game on for Special Olympics Team Canada 2019

Team Canada George Maclagan Sheri Lucas
Special Olympics Team Canada powerlifting coach George Maclagan (centre) with Oak Bay Police Cst. Sheri Lucas, 2019 Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg runner and team leader, in Abu Dhabi.

It's go time at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games! Competition is underway and Special Olympics Team Canada powerlifting coach George Maclagan of Campbell River has taken the time to share the following reflections. Please click here to find the competition schedules and results for #SOTeamCanada19's B.C. team members, and follow the excitement on our social media channels!

March 15 morning

Game On - True Canadian Words known in every community, by every child across this nation.

It is 7:30 a.m. on the 15th of March 2019 and after a spectacular Opening Ceremony of non-stop colour, motion, and music, the 2019 Special Olympics World Games at Abu Dhabi are on. 

Josee Seguin from Sudbury Ontario starts off Team Canada powerlifting, competing in all 3 lifts, squat, bench press, and deadlifting.

This is where all the time, sweat, and sacrifice comes together along with the support of the hometown coaches, volunteers, and teammates. A lot of early mornings and late nights, days of travel and missed events happen in an athlete’s life to get to this stage. 

All for a moment the attempt to challenge personal best with no guarantees of success. 

Sport is life and life is a journey to be loved and experienced. 

Game On. Go Josee

*After the writing of this piece, Seguin's schedule shifted to begin competition on March 16.

March 16 morning

Day 1 wrapped with more excitement than it promised, and Day 2 will show us even more.

Day 1 produced amazing competition and medals are starting to come already for Team Canada in the pool. Some amazing times from swimmers like [Kelowna's] Kelsey Wyse and [Regina's] Colby Kosteniuk were tuned in at Dubai, and then all gathered in Abu Dhabi to meet with friends and family. 

Spending time with supporters like Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer, a member of the BC Law Enforcement Torch Run, and family members of our athletes was very impactful. To hear their stories and share their journeys. “Yukon” Shirley Chua relating her story regarding [Team Canada swimmer] Ernest Chua and his journey to silver at these Games is one of the very best take away memories of these Games. 

Day 2 is now here.

I started by checking with home, texting [SOBC – Campbell River powerlifters] Mickie Hildebrandt and Tye Cranton. Makes you good to think of family and friends.

Josee Seguin is on the platform at 11:00 a.m. Her hometown of Sudbury is cheering her on led by her mother Linda and local coach Callen McGibbon. 

Life is amazing, take is any way it comes and enjoy the moment. 

March 17 morning

Last night ended with a lots of laughs as the powerlifters celebrated a successful day on the platform. 

Josee Seguin turned in a stellar performance taking silver in the squat and gold in the bench press, deadlift, and combined. 

But so much more is going on at Abu Dhabi. We are partaking in Healthy Athletes, where athletes from 200 countries are being screened by health professionals in areas from eyes to hearing. Taught lessons in healthy living, being fit for life, and good dental and hygiene practice. Some athletes are being provided with hearing aids and are hearing their teammates cheer them on for the very first time in their lives. So many powerful moments. 

Being able to spend time with people, who care for the same things that we do, share the same values, and all brought together by sport is amazing. The volunteers here from all over the United Arab Emirates have been so inviting. They welcome us to our second home when they greet us, and they mean it. They are very knowledgeable about Canada and shared with us many stories of their trips to Canada and what Canada has meant to them. 

I met a young man from Abu Dhabi today who helped load weight for us in the warm up room on the bar, who has cycled across Canada from the West Coast to the East Coast. He was overjoyed to be helping Team Canada as he shared his stories of his time in Canada. What a fabulous way to make the world a little smaller and people more united.

Today we are back on the platform. Three times Special Olympics World Games athlete Paul Perrault will be competing in squat, bench and deadlift and we hope to continue to do our best.

Game On

March 18 morning

Team Canada powerlifting gets a rest day with Andre Goulet competing tomorrow (March 19) and Michael Bandler and Christine Sullivan going on Wednesday (March 20). 

I will be honest. I am a little homesick, missing my wife Colleen and my sons Graham and Callum and all my friends and family back in British Columbia. I am sure this is true for all the athletes, coaches, and members of Team Canada that are over here with us. 

For many of us, being away from home and routine this long is a challenge, but challenge accepted. The mental toughness of sport is real, and we will take the time needed to recharge the batteries and centre ourselves. This is why we are a team. Never alone and Stronger Together.

We will see Paul Perreault will be awarded four gold medals after a tremendous performance yesterday and we will continue to visit other sporting events to cheer on amazing performances not just by members of Team Canada but the athletes from 200 nations who have come together at these Games.

It’s all good. 

Game On

March 19 morning

Recharged and ready to go. 

We got to see handball, judo, and soccer, and participate in many of the fabulous activities that are around the ADNEC. We cheered on a wonderful medal presentation for [Ontario powerlifter] Paul Perreault who earned four gold medals, then we had a great team meal and off to bed ready to face the day. 

I spent the night reviewing the lifting plan with [Team Canada powerlifting] Head Coach Ross MacIntosh for our remaining three lifters, Andre Goulet, Michael Bandler, and Christine Sullivan. 

This is the toughest time for me as a coach, the time before the competition. Doubt, that little voice that [Team Canada Honorary Coach and Olympic champion] Marnie McBean spoke about turning down.

The voice that questions, are we on track? Is the plan right, where to make our move if we need to push our lifter? Have we put our lifter in the best possible place to be successful?

This is where I am learning to be a better coach from Ross. He trusts the training coaches that have worked with the athletes across Canada for many years and he understands the sport deeply. I listen and watch and learn as he makes small decisions that have big pay offs. 

He is calm and confident on the outside, even though I know he is as nervous as I am, he just doesn’t show it. Just a duck on a pond. Calm on top but what you don’t see under the water is going a hundred miles an hour.

How fortunate I am to be here, and I can’t wait to take back what I am learning to B.C. and share it with my coaching colleagues. 

I am looking forward to another great day in the United Arab Emirates. Sharing these experiences with some of the world’s best people. 

Day 5 [March 19] will start with Andre Goulet on the lifting platform at 11 AM UAE Time and a work out with him as well as Christine Sullivan and Michael Bandler who lift on March 20.

Game On

March 20 morning

Day 5 was another successful day for Team Canada with Timmons Ontario powerlifter Andre Goulet delivering a stellar performance that capped a perfect day with a personal-best deadlift of 227.5 kgs. Andre demonstrated sportsmanship and leadership when he was with the other Special Olympics athletes, showing them how to focus on and to enjoy the moment. 

Day 6 will see us having two athletes on the platform with Michael Bandler from Toronto and Christine Sullivan from Medicine Hat having their turn with the bar. We are rolling and we know that they will do their best. 

We have been able to continue to enjoy the city of Abu Dhabi and meet people from all over the world. The small Canadian pin brought from home continues seems to be a favourite collectible, drawing groups together to get a treasured memento from Team Canada.

The Red and White is being well represented by Team Canada 19.

March 21 morning

Figuratively and literally, we are finished competition with nothing left in the tank. 

Everything was left on the platform by the athletes and coaches. Both Christine Sullivan from Medicine Hat and Michael Bandler from Toronto had great days.

Christine, competing against athletes half her age, continues to show how a great a lifter and person she is, tying all her records from the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in 2018 and winning the hearts of the people around her with her infectious personality and wonderful smile. Christine earned two silver, one bronze, and one fourth-place finish.

Michael had competition, and it was a battle to the very last lift. Well coached by Ross MacIntosh, Michael was pushed to give everything he had, earning two gold and two silver and shattering three personal-best records, two in the squat alone. 

When the last lift was done, we all knew that there were no regrets, nothing more to be done, what had started the day after Antigonish was completed, and everything – and I mean everything – has been left on the platform. A proud day to be a coach, a fan, and a Canadian.