Hard work and dedication earned three Keremeos athletes a spot on the podium at the Special Olympics Summer Games held in Kamloops recently.
Jessica Lehtonen and Ashleigh Cummings earned gold in 5-pin bowling while Leona Foster earned bronze.
“The medal is the ultimate goal. But, really as long as you’re doing your personal best that’s the point. But at this time our personal best is that we earned medals and that’s great,” Ashleigh said during an interview with the Review after the big win.
Jessica and Ashleigh bowled on the South Okanagan team together while Leona bowled on the Penticton team.
The team pairings were a result of how the bowlers performed during regionals earlier in the year.
The women have a dedicated practice schedule. They meet at least once a week from fall to early summer to practice at the Similkameen Recreation Centre.
For several months leading up to the summer games they also practiced with their respective teams either in Osoyoos or Penticton. At times they practiced three times a week.
“You’ve got to practice to be good like us,” Leona said.
Jessica said she knew the group would do well.
“Oh ya, we work hard. We’re good. We go there to have fun but to win,” Jessica said.
During the two-day competition the women bowled six games each.
Although it was a gruelling competition to bowl that many games back-to-back the women were happy with the results.
“I tried my best and my grandparents came out to watch me. That was nice,” Jessica said.
The olympic medalists all agreed that they couldn’t have gotten to the podium without the help of their coaches and all the volunteers.
Jessica’s mom Janet Lehtonen coaches them throughout the regular season and they had different coaches to prepare for the summer games.
“We want to thank everybody that helped us, all the coaches and the volunteers, both at practices and at the games. Let me tell you without the volunteers it would all just fall apart,” Ashleigh said.
The women also compete in rhythmic gymnastics and bocce.
They will start practicing again for bowling in September.