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Skiers rise to challenge
Gold medals dangled from the necks of Kevin Ellis and Teneesha Coulson upon their return from the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea Jan. 30 to Feb. 5.
Ellis took gold in cross country skiing 500-metre distance, while Coulson struck gold in alpine skiing. Ellis completed his event in three minutes, and 16.13 seconds.
It was the first medal Ellis won in world competition as he has won two golds and a silver medal at the national level.
“I can’t believe that I beat other countries,” he said smiling. “I broke down in tears.”
Following his victory, he received a big hug from his coach.
Ellis said his performance at the World Winter Games is his highest athletic achievement.
“Just to get to the worlds, if I got a medal it’s a bonus,” he said. “Representing Canada was amazing and it’s an honour.”
Ellis placed fifth in the 2.5-km distance, which he was moved up a division and fourth in the one-km relay. Competing in a different division, Ellis said the athletes were better.
“They were fast and taller,” said Ellis, who admitted he was nervous before the races. “On the track I was calm and ready.”
Coulson faced the same challenge as Ellis, in being bumped from the intermediate level to advanced in Super G alpine skiing. With that change, her confidence dropped and she felt nervous.
“Advanced is harder,” said Coulson, 19, who started skiing with her father when he was seven and has been part of Special Olympics for five years. “More competition. They were tough.”
Adding to the challenge was skiing on icy snow as it rained the night before. Not used to those conditions, Coulson’s only adjustment was to rely on her edges more on turns. When Coulson’s result finished as the best, she was shocked.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Coulson, who reached her main goal in competing in the Special Olympics World Winter Games.
After experiencing that feeling, Coulson said she wants to experience it again. Ellis feels the same way.
Ellis and Coulson were part of the 141-person team Canada sent that set a new record for this country’s Special Olympics. B.C. athletes contributed eight gold, six silver and five bronze medals.
“The athletes on Special Olympics Team Canada worked hard for four years to qualify to compete in the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games, progressing through regional, provincial, and national competitions to reach the world stage,” said Special Olympics B.C. president and CEO Dan Howe in a release. “The B.C. team members were well-prepared and determined competitors who did their province proud as they achieved many medals and personal bests. We are so proud of them and of their dedicated coaches.”