Robert Tarko loves how Special Olympics gives athletes like him opportunities to make new friends, be part of a supportive community, and live an active lifestyle.
Tarko participates in 5-pin bowling and golf with Special Olympics BC – Trail. He says 5-pin bowling is his favourite sport because it is very inclusive to people with wide variety of abilities.
“It’s a lot of fun to go out there and bowl and meet new people,” he says.
Tarko says participating in an SOBC sport is an exciting experience, and he loves the fun and supportive atmosphere at practices and competitions.
“Every sport Special Olympics has is a good sport – always, always!”
A longtime SOBC – Trail athlete, Tarko says he is extremely grateful to all the volunteers at his Local who provide athletes with life-changing opportunities.
“The coaches here are all dynamite – you will never get nicer coaches! They bend over backwards to help you in all kinds of different ways.”
Tarko has earned many medals in a variety of sports over his time with Special Olympics. He says they mean a lot to him because they show what he is capable of when he works hard to achieve his goals.
“I cherish them so much,” he says.
Along with helping him build confidence and become a better athlete, Tarko says SOBC has helped him develop social skills and learn to be a good teammate. He says he really appreciates how athletes can participate in Special Olympics programs no matter how old they are.
“I am 55 and I am active and I will always be active,” Tarko says.
Some of the things Tarko likes most about being an SOBC athlete are travelling and being part of a team. His favourite Special Olympics experience was competing in curling at the 2000 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Ottawa. He says he got to meet many athletes from across the country and talk to them about Special Olympics.
“I met a lot of new friends at those National Games and it was a blast!”
More recently, Tarko competed in 5-pin bowling at the 2017 SOBC Summer Games in Kamloops and says it was it was an incredible experience.
“To see all the athletes in one spot and having fun, especially during the Opening Ceremony, I burst into tears because it was such a wonderful thing to see!”
Tarko is very appreciative of all volunteers in Kamloops who worked hard to make the Provincial Games so successful.
“My hat goes off to everyone in Kamloops who pulled it off,” he said.
Through his performance in Kamloops, Tarko had qualified to compete at the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Bowling Championships, but received some medical news that prevented him from going to Prince Edward Island.
Tarko had been training hard and was very disappointed. He said many of his Team BC teammates told him that even though he couldn’t go to the Bowling Championships, he would be with them in spirit, and that meant a lot to Tarko.
During the event in P.E.I., Tarko followed Team BC’s results closely and cheered on his friends from home. Tarko said he very happy to see the bowlers from B.C. do such a great job on the East Coast.
In his community, Tarko loves to help out with SOBC – Trail fundraisers and give speeches about the importance of Special Olympics.
“It’s fun to get out there and speak to a lot of people about what Special Olympics is about,” Tarko says.
Tarko says he loves Special Olympics and being an athlete is an important part of his identity. Tarko is very happy that SOBC offers youth programs, because he has received many wonderful opportunities through Special Olympics and it makes him feel good to know the next generation of athletes will get these opportunities, too.