Last week was the golden culmination of nearly a year of preparation and training for a group of Quesnel athletes as they vied, and got more often than not, medals at the Summer Special Olympics.
“We’re very pleased and proud about how we did, not just in each sport, but as a team period,” said bowler Cory Melnychuk.
The B.C. Special Olympics were the results of months, up to a year, of training, having qualified for the games last year.
Quesnel fielded 17 athletes and 16 of those returned with a medal, or two or more, around their necks.
Dean Cake, Cory Melnychuk, Eldon Carter and Jean Carter, joined by Jordan Korum of Prince George, earned gold in five-pin bowling. Julie Calihou won five golds across rhythmic gymnastics, one in each discipline: hoop, rope, ball, ribbon and an overall. Paulette Prosk swam to a double gold finish in 25m backstroke and 50m backstroke. Aaron Allinson earned a silver in 25m backstroke and 25m freestyle.
Jerman Severeid, Danny Dodgson, Travis Burt, Brock Terlesky, Scott Jonasson, Rob Beiswanger, Max Nelson and Clayton Bauder fought hard for a bronze in A division soccer.
Martin Scriver joined Prince George’s bowling team, earning a bronze.
Glenda Melnychuk also participated as a member of Region 7 soccer team.
The team bussed to the Prince George Airport, where they were greeted by a banner wishing them good luck on their trip. They joined the rest of the zone 8, roughly the Prince George/Quesnel areas athletes there, then flew down to Vancouver and bussed on to Langley where they settled in.
The opening ceremonies, complete with the lighting of the torch, left it’s imprint on the athletes.
Dodgson said it was one of the highlights of the games for him, watching a variety of B.C athletes like Trevor Linden and Travis Lulay leading the teams in.
“We were all excited to get everything going and underway,” he said.
From there the teams put their heads down and focused on winning.
The bowlers kept their heads down, focusing so hard on the game they decided not to track their progress over the weekend to keep from psyching themselves out.
“We really want it to be a surprise and trust me it was,” Melnychuk said.
The soccer team had a particularly hard fight, as they got bumped up from the B division, where they qualified, to the A division against Surrey and Richmond. The tournament started out with a hard loss, but the team learned to keep fighting and pursued that throughout the games, up to their 4-1 loss against Surrey, who went on to win gold in the final.
“We could proudly walk off the field after the game, knowing that we’d done everything we could against the eventual winners. Everyone remarked on Quesnel’s spirit and tenacity, and I was proud that the players showed the skill and mental fortitude that allowed them to keep the game close,” coach Rick Prosk said.
“The team definitely earned its bronze.”
After all that work and all those medals, the team was tired and happy with the results and for the provincial stage on which they performed.
“It allowed us to show our talents to the rest of the province and we really reaped the benefits,” Melnychuk said.
Now the athletes are in a kind of limbo, as they wait to see if they have earned a berth in nationals next year in Vancouver.
The athletes were accompanied by their coaching staff including: coaching/mission staff, Karen Prosk; team manager, Shelly Calihou, one-to-one support for Julie Calihou; Deborah Evans, swimming coach; Doreen O’Brien, bowling coach; Ellen Martz, Prince George 10-pin bowling coach; and Dave Robson, Crystal Ferreira, and coach Rick Prosk who helped with the soccer team.
Check out the Special Olympics flickr page for more pictures from the event.