By Jessica Jones for the Pipestone Flyer
Wetaskiwin Special Olympics curling and floor hockey teams have brought home medals from the Special Olympics National Games where they competed amongst top athletes from across Canada.
The national games were held from Feb.25 to 29 in Thunder Bay, Ont. and Blain Fuller, head coach for Team Alberta’s floor hockey team, which won bronze, says it was an experience of a lifetime.
He says it’s the first time in 16 years that they’ve brought home medals from the national games.
“I’m so proud of our athletes,” Fuller, who coached floor hockey for 25 out of the 30 years he’s been with the Special Olympics, said.
“They were very good games; I’m almost getting too old for that much excitement,” he joked.
His team, mostly made up of local Wetaskiwin players, participated in five games, as well as three partial games in four days. They eventually won 3-2 in sudden death overtime for bronze against the British Columbia team.
“We were right there and it was awesome competition,” Fuller explained, noting that the team could have easily competed in the gold medal game.
“The athletes really stepped up, and I can’t complain with our performance,” he said.
Don Striker, Team Alberta’s curling head coach, echoes Fuller’s sentiments on his team’s gold medal win.
“It is very exciting, we are happy to come away with anything,” he said.
“We have never been to nationals so it was very nice to get that.There was a lot of pressure leading up to the games.”
The curling team, also made up of local Wetaskiwin players went through a divisioning process at nationals where they tried to get as many points as they could. Striker says they were placed in the middle division and ended up winning 7-0 for gold.
“I’m very proud of the players,” he said. “They’ve come away with a really good sense of accomplishment, pride and humility. It’s not all about being the best but it’s really nice to represent Alberta.”
Both coaches acknowledged that the community really stepped up to support the Wetaskiwin Special Olympics.
Both teams’ seasons are winding down and Fuller says they will soon be starting their summer sports. He says the biggest thing that keeps the Wetaskiwin programs from growing is a lack of volunteers.
“If people want to partner up and provide opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, it’s so important for the wellness of our community and it makes our community so much better.”
For more information, visit www.specialolympics.ca/alberta/wetaskiwin