Special Olympics athletes head to provincials
Special Olympics athletes from the Eastman region are aiming high as they head to provincials this week.
Seven bowlers and seven snowshoers will be making the trip to St John’s Ravenscourt and the Billy Mosienko Lanes respectively, to compete in the 2023 Special Olympics Manitoba Winter games Feb. 24-26. Another athlete will be participating in speed skating.
The Eastman contingent gathered at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School for a pep rally Feb. 14, although bad weather prevented the snowshoeing team from showing off their skills.
As part of the 2023 provincial games, Team Manitoba’s contingent for the 2024 National Winter Games in Calgary will be selected.
The 2023 provincial games marks a return to normalcy for Special Olympics Manitoba, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellations in previous years.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking being off two-and-a-half years,” snowshoe and track athlete Caleb Friesen said.
Friesen has competed at seven provincial games, including three winter ones.
“My goal is to qualify for nationals again,” Friesen said, noting most Special Olympics activities stopped after he attended the Thunder Bay nationals in 2020.
For others on the Eastman team, making it to nationals for the first time would be a dream come true.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve watched the Olympics and Paralympics, so my goal is to compete in the nationals and hopefully go to the third stages,” Angela Kuffner said.
“My dream is if they have a torch, it’s to run with the torch.”
Eastman’s athletes will be up against over 300 others from across the province.
“(The) Games are an opportunity to showcase athletes from across the province, to shine in front of friends family and fans and to show how far they have come,” Director of Sport for Special Olympics Manitoba Darren Hemeryck wrote in the program for the Winter Games.
Weather forcing snowshoers to train indoors isn’t a surprise this year according to Friesen.
“The snow conditions have been a little bit hard,” he said.
“We’ve had a nice snowfall, then it’s been good. It’s been on and off.”
Friesen has been competing in Special Olympics since he was 14-years-old. Now 30, he has spent 16 years competing.