Wherever he goes, Grand Forks athlete Charlie Kain carries a permanent reminder of the spirit needed to compete and thrive in the sports he loves. A pair of hockey sticks, crossed, with the initials “K. K.” flex each time he snaps his wrists to take a shot or bowl a ball in Special Olympics competitions.
“I put it on my arm to remember him all the time because he always showed so much emotion,” Kain said of his friend and teammate, Keith Kyle, who died in 2015. “He was the biggest one to show a lot of emotion.”
Beyond his athleticism, it is Kain’s ability to compete with emotion and lift his teammates up that have earned him a fourth nomination for Special Olympics BC’s Athletic Achievement Award.
“The selection committee was particularly inspired by your dedication to your training and always working toward improving yourself as an athlete, and your success as an athlete,” a letter from the organization’s chairman to Kain reads.
Kain’s career with Special Olympics has stretched for nearly 24 years — much longer than the careers of athletes he admires, like Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, could hope to run.
“I’m going to go until my body won’t let me go anymore,” the 35-year-old said. “I just can’t give it up. I love the sport and I love meeting new people.”
At various times, Kain has competed in Special Olympics hockey, swimming, bowling and bocce competitions, though hockey, he said, is his favourite. Now nominated for a fourth time, Kain knows what puts an athlete over the top.
“I think they’re looking for a person who helps their team, or even the other team,” he explained. “Someone who can associate with any kind of player or person without having a bad attitude.
“Some people get upset [when they lose] but those are the ones that you have to build up,” Kain said.
Over his career, Kain said, competing with Special Olympics “gives a feeling of accomplishment when you can compete in that [high] level of things.” But despite his success on and off the court, the Grand Forks athlete insists he’s not done yet.
“One of my dreams is to actually play for team Canada,” he said. “It’s what I’d love to do.”