Meet the teams pumped to deliver personal bests at the 2019 Special Olympics BC Winter Games

Special Olympics BC floor hockey player Ryan Courtemanche in 2015
Special Olympics BC – Kelowna floor hockey player Ryan Courtemanche and the Region 2 team at the 2015 SOBC Winter Games Opening Ceremony.

The 2019 Special Olympics BC Winter Games will involve 600 athletes with intellectual disabilities and more than 200 volunteer coaches and mission staff participating in teams representing the eight sport regions of B.C. and the Yukon. Meet the members of the teams who are excited to come together and compete in Greater Vernon! Please click here to find schedules to come watch and cheer on these inspiring athletes.

Region 1 – Kootenays

The beautiful Kootenays will be well represented by a team of 64 members from all 10 Special Olympics BC Locals in the Region, led by Chef de Mission Marie-Helene Labonte. The team boasts athletes ranging in age from 13 to 58, including one of the two youngest athletes in these Games! The Kootenays athletes have been training with great determination and primed to compete in 5-pin bowling, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, floor hockey, and snowshoeing, and – for the first time – speed skating. 

The team includes Ian Walgren, the first Region 1 speed skater ever to compete in Provincial Games, and veteran alpine skier Erin Thom, who has competed in five Special Olympics World Winter Games but next month will also make her World Summer Games debut competing in golf in Abu Dhabi.

Region 2 – Okanagan 

Region 2 athletes are excited to be competing on home territory. This is the third time in the last six years that Special Olympics BC Games have been held in the Okanagan, and the thrill of walking into the Opening Ceremony in front of the hometown crowd never gets old!

Led by Chef de Mission Sheila Paynter, the Region 2 team includes 117 people representing five SOBC Locals: Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton, and South Okanagan. The athletes have been working hard to compete with pride in 5-pin bowling, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey, and snowshoeing.

For some of the Region 2 athletes, this is their first Provincial Games ever, while others are veterans of every level of Games up to Worlds. In fact, one of the Okanagan athletes is going to the World Summer Games next month in Abu Dhabi, and her teammates wish her the best Games ever!

Region 3 – Fraser Valley

The dynamos from Region 3 are ready to delight the crowds competing in every sport on offer in the 2019 SOBC Games. The 115 team members hail from all seven SOBC Locals in their Region: Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Langley, Mission, Ridge Meadows, and Surrey. Region 3 will be the second-largest team at these Games and will bring passion and pride to the competition. 

Led by Chef de Mission Sheila Hogan, the team has a significant depth of experience as well as several rookies who are excited to make their Provincial Games debut in Greater Vernon.

Region 4 – Fraser River-Delta

The 80 members of the remarkable Region 4 team represent three Special Olympics BC Locals: Burnaby, Delta, and Richmond. The athletes will compete with pride in 5-pin bowling, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing, and speed skating.

Led by Chef de Mission Karen Theriault, the team includes decades of Special Olympics experience with a significant number of veteran athletes, coaches, and mission staff, and they also have newcomers ready to experience the joy of competing in their first Provincial Games. 

The team includes figure skater Matthew Lai, the 2018 Special Olympics BC Spirit of Sport Award winner, and curler April Armstrong, who will be flipping the switch to summer sports after these Games as she will compete in athletics at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi in March.

Region 5 – Vancouver-Squamish

The mighty Region 5 team has 88 members representing four Special Olympics BC Locals: the Sunshine Coast, North Vancouver, Vancouver, and Whistler. This is the first time that Special Olympics BC – Sunshine Coast has participated in Provincial Winter Games! 

Led by Chef de Mission Darren Inouye, the Region 5 team includes a diversity of experience and athletes ranging in age from 13 to 65. Region 5 athletes will show their skills competing in all eight sports at the 2019 SOBC Games.

Region 6 – Vancouver Island-Central Coast

At 180 members, the Region 6 team is the largest at these Games, with representation from Campbell River, Comox Valley, Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo, Oceanside, Port Alberni, Powell River, Salt Spring Island, and Victoria. The Region’s coaches have been working with the athletes all season to get them at the top of their game. The athletes have been training on a regular basis and are looking forward to proving how hard they have worked on the ice, the court, and in the snow.

Region 6 will participate in all eight official sports, and the team includes three athletes who will also compete in the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi next month. Chef de Mission Michelle Cruickshank is excited to be attending these Games in her first time in this role. A huge high five to all of the team members for being so supportive and helping to ensure the team has arrived ready to compete!

Region 7 – North West

Region 7 spans a whopping 500 kilometres from the coastal cities of Prince Rupert and Kitimat in the west, to Burns Lake in the Lakes District in the east. The team will be competing in alpine skiing, bowling, curling, and snowshoeing, with representatives from Kitimat, Terrace, and Smithers. 

With only 24 members, this Regional team may be small but they are big in heart and eager to perform personal bests. The team ranges in age from 15 to 65 and includes both father-son and mother-son duos. The team has members who have travelled to previous Provincial and National Games, as well as those attending for the first time. 

Chef de Mission Tina Giesbrecht from Burns Lake is excited to cheer on Region 7 athletes as they showcase their skills gained from hard work and determination.

Region 8 – Cariboo-North East 

Team Region 8 consists of 87 athletes, coaches, and mission staff, including members from the SOBC Locals of Dawson Creek, Fort. St. John, Prince George, Quesnel, and Williams Lake. The athletes have been training non-stop since the team was announced, and there have been reports of significant improvements and some personal bests since then! 

Led by Chef de Mission Tracy Heartt, Region 8 has a very dedicated coaching staff of trained and engaged coaches who are ready to help their athletes shine at these Games! The team is very excited for this Provincial Winter Games and look forward to the competition, the friendships, and the experience that only Games can provide. The team thanks the Greater Vernon area for all of their hard work, the many volunteers and the outstanding venues that we will get the privilege to enjoy.


Chef de Mission Brettanie Deal-Porter and the 17-member Yukon team travel from Whitehorse to participate in cross country skiing, curling, and figure skating. For many, this is their first trip to Vernon!