Nearly 1,200 individuals with intellectual disabilities gave their all in 11 sports and inspired everyone watching at the 2017 Special Olympics BC Summer Games, held in Kamloops July 6 to 8. These were SOBC’s largest Provincial Games to date and a thrilling display of the true power and joy of sport.
After earning their spots in the 2017 SOBC Games through 2016 Regional Qualifiers, the competitors from more than 50 communities throughout B.C. and the Yukon trained hard with their year-round Special Olympics programs in their hometowns to be ready to be at their best in Kamloops. They delivered outstanding performances in Canada’s Tournament Capital, showing their abilities and determination, and helping change the way the world sees individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Supported by more than 350 volunteer coaches and mission staff, the athletes competed in the 11 SOBC summer sports: 5- and 10-pin bowling, athletics, basketball, bocce, golf, powerlifting, rhythmic gymnastics, soccer, softball, and swimming. They experienced a very warm welcome from the Kamloops community, thanks in particular to the generous sponsors and the nearly 800 volunteers who helped make the Games possible.
“I want to thank Kamloops for having these Games,” said SOBC – Richmond basketball player and SOBC Board of Directors member Vincent Li. “The venues were good and all the buses were really good. I noticed everyone was really excited for the Games and the volunteers were really enthusiastic. All the volunteers here in Kamloops were amazing, each and every one.”
The Games saw more than 2,100 medals awarded to deserving athletes, used 256 buses over the weekend to transport the Regional teams, and served more than 14,000 meals thanks to Canuel Caterers.
Photo at right of Surrey’s Melissa Semke by Eryn Slade
“We’re so grateful to Kamloops and the 2017 SOBC Games Organizing Committee for creating a truly outstanding experience for our athletes,” SOBC Vice President, Sport, Lois McNary said. “We know Kamloops volunteers are called upon frequently for events, but they truly rose to the occasion in support of Special Olympics and made our 2017 Provincial Games so empowering and exciting for all involved.”
Competing in Provincial Games is a huge thrill in itself for the athletes, many of whom had their first opportunity ever to travel with a team, and thrived on the chances to challenge themselves to attain and exceed their athletic goals. In addition, top performers in Kamloops will qualify for spots on Team BC for the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and the 2018 National Bowling Championships in Prince Edward Island. Out east, the participants will compete to advance to the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.
“I’ve been waiting over 20 years to get to Provincial Games for swimming, and I finally got here and I got my first gold medal! It felt awesome, like all of my hard work for the last year had paid off, and it just makes me want to work even more and even harder in practice to get here again!” said swimmer Emily Beauchamp of Special Olympics BC – Oceanside, now a Nanaimo resident. “Special Olympics is more than just an organization for people with intellectual disabilities, it’s a huge part of our lives. … A lot of the lessons we learn in Special Olympics help us in our daily life as well.”
SOBC is very grateful to all the generous Games sponsors:
- Platinum Sponsors: City of Kamloops, School District #73, Sobeys Better Food Fund
- Gold Sponsors: TD Bank Group, BC Games Society, Kamloops Sports Legacy Fund, RBC Dominion Securities and Royal Bank of Canada, and Sun Life Financial
- Silver Sponsors: BCLC, Interior Savings Insurance Services Inc., and New Gold – New Afton Mine
- Bronze Sponsors: Binnie Consulting, Domtar – Kamloops, Horizon North, KGHM Ajax Mining Inc., and Teck
- Healthy Athletes Sponsor: LifeLabs
- Media Sponsors: Broadcast Centre, Kamloops This Week, and NL Broadcasting
- Catering Sponsor: Canuel Caterers
- Friends of the Games: Aqua Pure Premium Water, BC Tree Fruits, Blackwell Diary, Cascades Casino, Lee’s Music, Omega LTD, Rogers Rental, Smith Chevrolet Cadillac Ltd., SunRype
Hear from more SOBC Games athletes, coaches, and volunteers:
SOBC – North Shore swimmer Emma Henderson said she was looking forward to competing against her friend, fellow North Shore athlete Mary McLaughlin. “I am happy – I like it here! I am so excited to swim with my friend Mary!” (both pictured at right)
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Julie Black, SOBC – Cowichan Valley softball skills gold medallist who was competing in her third Provincial Games. “It’s amazing, I didn’t think I would come this far or even get a medal!” One of her favourite parts of Special Olympics is “getting all the confidence we get from our coaches and all the hard work they put in with us.”
SOBC – Nanaimo athlete Alex Williams competed in shot put, long jump, and the 100m and 200m races at Provincial Games. He says Special Olympics is like a family and he has really enjoyed meeting new people in Kamloops. “Making new friends is like making new family members,” he says. “It makes me feel happy.”
SOBC – Fort St. John rhythmic gymnast Britni Renaud enjoyed her first Provincial Games experience. She said it took the team 14 hours to get to Kamloops but “it was worth it.” At the Games, she said, “I like that I can perform in my outfit because I really like it, and that I can have fun with a lot of people and meet new people.” She was glad to be performing and “doing my best.”
SOBC – Campbell River powerlifter Callum Maclagan after deadlifting 440 pounds and winning all-around gold: “”I defy gravity. I just used my sound mind, sound heart, and sound body.”
SOBC – 100 Mile House 5-pin bowler Aaron Goodwill, enjoying his second Provincial Games: “I had fun bowling and hanging out with friends.”
SOBC – Penticton powerlifter Alfred Wiltse (pictured at right) recently had to take some time off from the sport because of an injury, and he is happy to be participating in powerlifting again. He says competing in the sport is a huge adrenaline rush and he enjoys the social component of Provincial Games. “It’s a good feeling to see people you haven’t seen in a while and sometimes you make new friends,” he says.
SOBC – Prince George Local Coordinator and Region 8 soccer coach Alexandra Orser: “As a first-time provincial coach, I was surprised by how enthusiastic everyone was no matter how well they did. The camaraderie was awesome — it was an awesome environment!”
SOBC – Coquitlam rhythmic gymnastics coach Jessie Au was taking part in her first Provincial Games. She was with two rhythmic gymnastics athletes from her Local and she says they are excited because SOBC – Coquitlam athletes haven’t completed in rhythmic gymnastics at the provincial level in a long time. “It’s inspiring because all the athletes work really hard and it shows positive things come from hard work and determination,” she says. “Also, everyone at Games is really nice, from the athletes, to the coaches, to the volunteers, to the staff.”
SOBC Region 8 coach, volunteer, and parent Crystal: “As a mom of a Special Olympics athlete, thank you to SOBC, sponsors, Kamloops volunteers, coaches, and mission staff for pulling together to host the Games! My daughter’s life would be lacking if she didn’t have the sporting opportunities this organization provides!”
Athletics volunteer Stephen: “Over the two-day event I have never listened to so many stories from the athletes or shared so many laughs. Whether it was a first- or eighth-place finish they made it a point to stop by and share. The athletes do embrace their oath. I don’t think that I high-fived, hugged or fist bumped as many people in my entire life than I did while greeting the athletes, coaches and support staff as they unloaded off their bus and entered the Sandman Centre for the opening ceremonies. This weekend was an experience that I will never forget!”