It was a long journey, but well worth it.
Greater Trail athlete Stuart Hawton and golf coach Rhonda Chandler survived the jet lag, and put up great results at the 50th edition of the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games in Antigonish, Nova Scotia last weekend.
The Greater Trail duo joined Team BC in Vancouver for the coast-to-coast quest to compete with over 1,400 athletes at the Antigonish Games. More than 170 Team BC athletes with intellectual disabilities participated, with Chandler one of 54 coaches, and 16 mission staff. In all, 38 BC communities were represented, competing in nine sports that included athletics, basketball, bocce, golf, powerlifting, rhythmic gymnastics, soccer, softball, and swimming.
Hawton proved again that hard work pays off, as the Montrose swimmer captured two gold and three silver medals at the Games. Stuart won gold in the 100-m free relay and the 100-m backstroke, and bronze in 200-m breast, 100-m Individual Medley, and 50-m butterfly.
Meanwhile, Chandler attended her first Canada Summer Games as a coach to Nanaimo golfer Yves Moskaluke.
The pair missed the podium by one stroke, but more importantly, Moskaluke improved his game every day at the Antigonish Golf and Country Club, shooting a 53 in the first round, followed by rounds of 51 and 50 to close out the tournament in fourth.
“He did amazing,” said Chandler. “Fourth place is still good, and although he was kind of bummed out, it’s not always about the medal but the experience of competing in a national games.”
Hawton qualified for the Canada Games by winning three gold and a silver medal at the 2017 BC Summer Games in Kamloops, while Chandler was one of 10 golf coaches selected out of almost 50 applicants and proved a positive role for Moskaluke and the other golfers.
Chandler’s highlight of the Games came during the third and final round of the tournament.
“My most memorable moment, golfing with Yves, came on the seventh hole. It was a par-3 and he was this far (a foot) away from a hole-in-one. Just the smile on his face was pretty amazing.”
All the athletes and coaches stayed at the historic St. Francis Xavier University, with all facilities on campus or close by. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were also a highlight and provided opportunities to socialize with members of teams from across the country.
Over the five-decade span, the Special Olympics have helped shape the lives of thousands of athletes and their supporters. And, despite nine hours in the air, three flight changes, and a two-hour bus ride to Antigonish, Chandler says she’d do it again in a heart beat.
“It was a fantastic experience. It was almost magical with the way things all just came together. I totally enjoyed every minute of it.”