Oak Bay resident Tess van Straaten (centre) serves as head coach for the Island’s Special Olympics figure skating team during the BC Winter Games this week. Oak Bay Figure Skating Club members Emily Walzak (left) of View Royal and Desiree Grubell (right) of Saanich compete. (Christine van REeuwyk/Oak Bay News)

Oak Bay skaters bound for B.C. Games in Kamloops

Saanich resident aims for second gold

  • Feb. 19, 2018 12:00 a.m.

Oak Bay Figure Skating Club member Emily Walzak of View Royal hopes to reclaim gold this week in Kamloops, but it’s not her top priority.

The BC Winter Games are in Kamloops from Feb. 22 to 25 and feature Special Olympics BC athletes and 20 coaches for the chance to showcase their skills in front of their peers from generic sports.

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Oak Bay resident Tess van Straaten serves as head coach for the Island’s Special Olympics figure skating team, while Oak Bay Figure Skating Club members Walzak and Desiree Grubell of Saanich will compete.

Walzak won a gold in the 2016 Games.

“It was fun to just be there with the team, the whole atmosphere was exciting,” she said. “It’s fun to meet new teammates and old teammates you haven’t seen in a long time.”

Walkzak, a figure skater for six years now with the Special Olympics team looks forward to sharing her routine with cohorts and spectators during the BC Winter Games Feb. 22-25.

“I love just getting to dress up and express myself through music. It’s really fun to get to travel around the city and province too,” she says.

The Games features 1,229 athletes from every corner of the province competing in 19 sports. The athletes are an average of 14 years old and for most, this will be their first experience at a multi-sport Games. Special Olympians will compete in basketball and figure skating and athletes with a disability will compete in cross country skiing and wheelchair basketball.

While Walzak is a seasoned traveller, for some, the Games are the first opportunity to travel with teammates and enjoy some independence in a safe atmosphere, says longtime coach van Straaten.

“Also, that team spirit. If you go to any major sporting event like Olympics or the Commonwealth Games there’s just that energy and all of the athletes cheer each other on,” she says. “Really they’re competing against themselves, so it’s not competitive against each other. They want to do their personal best, have their best skate, and have a great Games experience.”

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