It’s not every day that a Yukon figure skater is named to Team Canada for the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games. For that athlete to win a silver medal is a very proud moment and that is exactly what 15 year old Michael Sumner did in Pyeonchang, South Korea this month.
Sumner joined 101 athletes from across Canada to compete against a competition of more than 3,000 other athletes from around the world, all convening in South Korea from Jan. 29 to Feb. 5.
“The experience was exciting and amazing,” Sumner says. “Although I was a little bit nervous before I stepped out on the ice.”
After his compulsory elements skate, Sumner was ranked fifth.
“My roommate (Marc Theriault from British Columbia who was skating in his seventh world games) really helped me to focus for my free skate,” he says. “The night before the competition he told me to dream about skating perfectly… and I did!”
Sumner won his level one free skate competition, garnering him the silver medal for his overall performance at the games.
Team Canada as a whole scored impressive performances. The 120-person team came home with 44 gold, 44 silver and 21 bronze medals.
Sumner stresses that although the medal was awesome it wasn’t the best part of the experience.
“Meeting new people and trying new food were the most exciting parts, although some of the food was a little spicy for me – oh and I got married,” he says with a laugh. “Three days ahead of the opening ceremonies we got the chance to take part in a series of cultural events, including experiencing a traditional Korean wedding ceremony – so I got ‘married’ to my fellow Team Canada member Sara McKelvie.”
The Canadian athletes made sure to give something back to their generous hosts during the cultural program.
“We performed a skating show for them — which was really fun — and then they took us to a set of hot springs, which was even better,” Sumner says. “They also taught us to dance Gagnam Style,” he laughs.
After their three-day cultural program the athletes were treated to a spectacular opening ceremonies.
“Both the opening and closing ceremonies were incredible,” says Sumner. “We even had Michelle Kwan skate for us at the closing ceremonies. Plus we had awesome uniforms to walk into opening ceremonies with the red sunglasses were the best part.”
Those sunglasses appear to be one of the only pieces of Sumner’s Team Canada uniform that made the return trip with him.
“I made a lot of great friends at the games,” he says, “and we decided to trade uniforms — I traded both my jackets and my pants for gear from Nepal, Korea, and Turkey.”
Sumner says that his world games experience ensured that he will continue to commit training time to the sport.
“I think I’ll compete in figure skating until I’m 50,” he muses.
That said, as Special Olympics Yukon gears up to focus on summer sports for the next couple of years, Sumner does plan to split his ice time with the soccer pitch.
“I’m really excited to be going to Abbotsford for the Summer Special Olympics Provincial Games with my fellow teammates later this year,” he says. “The chance to share the experience of a games with my best friends will be awesome.”
Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected].