Vancouver had better be prepared.
That’s where the Yukon is sending 24 Special Olympians, ages 13 and older, to compete in the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games — our largest team ever.
Janine Peters is the Chef de Mission for team Yukon. She oversees training, makes sure the athletes have everything they need, and coordinates volunteers.
“I enjoy every moment of it,” she says.
Although Peters is experienced with special athletes, she openly admits her personal struggles:
“There are times when I wonder if I am doing a good enough job, what more can be done, and if I am living up to the expectations of my predecessor.”
Despite these doubts, Peters is fully confidant in all the athletes.
“A lot of the athletes train several times a week, and have been working very hard,” she says.
Prior to qualifying for the national Special Olympics, athletes took part in the B.C. provincial competition, which was held in Langley B.C. last year.
“Our athletes all competed very well at the provincial level. I really look forward to seeing the results from the nationals,” Peters says.
Golf and bocce were added to the events for the first time this year; Yukon athletes will also compete in swimming, athletics, soccer, and bowling.
Whitehorse athlete Aimee Lien is no stranger to competitive sports.
She has competed in figure skating at the Winter Games in Quebec, as well as summer provincials in Ontario and Manitoba. This year, she is the captain of the bocce team.
“I find it to be very fun and exciting,” she says. “I feel really good when I play bocce.”
The recent high school graduate and her four teammates are hoping to win big.
“I have won a few bronze medals in provincial events. I would like my team to win gold,” she says.
When Lien is not playing bocce, she will be supporting her co-athletes by attending the other games.
“I like to watch golf and soccer, I hope they do well,” she says.
Darby McIntyre will represent the Yukon in athletics.
“I am going to be doing shot put, long jumping, and running in the 1500 and 5000 meter,” says the versatile athlete.
This will be the second time the Grade 9 student has competed.
“I really like running, I feel very powerful and focused,” he says.
The running superstar won four medals at last year’s BC provincials, and has no intention of stopping anytime soon.
“I would like to keep running for the next few years,” he says. “I like to socialize and make friends when I’m at a competition. I get very excited about competing,” McIntyre says.
Aside from athletics, McIntyre also has an interest in snowshoe running. “It’s fun, I get to show off my skills.”
Training for the athletes would not be complete without the support of volunteer coaches.
Ken Binns has coached the soccer team for four years.
“I am extremely honoured to be part of the Special Olympics, I know the athletes and other members have taken me in as part of their family,” he says.
The devoted coach has even gotten a Special Olympics tattoo.
“I got it to honour all the athletes around the world but especially my family of athletes, coaches and other volunteers in the Yukon that makes it worth belonging.”
Binns will coach soccer for as long as he can.
“I will certainly jump at the opportunity if I am again given the honour to be a Team Yukon coach,” he says. “I am also hoping to be able to get floor hockey going again, as there is also the same chances for the athletes to advance to the national and world levels, and it would be another experience for them to attain.”
The Special Olympics Canada Summer Games take place July 7-12 in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia. Teams from all territories and provinces will be there to compete for medals. For more information visit www.vancouver2014.com.