There were smiles on every sideline, finish line and podium at the 2017 Special Olympics B.C. Summer Games, July 6-9 in Kamloops.
Many of the broadest belonged to the 22 athletes from Special Olympics Yukon.
The team — the largest sent to the quadrennial event from Yukon — collected 18 medals with nine gold and nine silver.
“The athletes performed really well, you could tell they were really prepared and they knew what they were there to do,” said Yukon Chef de Mission Brettanie Deal-Porter. “Almost all the athletes set new personal bests, which for me I thought was really exceptional.
“They have a lot to be proud of and they represented the territory very, very well.”
Yukon’s Aimee Lien set a high watermark that will never be surpassed. Lien, the first Yukoner to represent the territory in rhythmic gymnastics, won five gold with first-place finishes in rope, hoop, ball and ribbon, and all-around.
Swimmers Kevin Spofford, Ernest Chua and Sara Lee Edmonds collected eight medals in the pool.
Spofford won gold in the 100-metre freestyle (1:31.80), the 200-metre freestyle (3:39.88) and the 50-metre backstroke (51.84). He also captured silver in the 100-metre backstroke (1:51.27). He beat his qualifying time in five out six events.
Chua swam to three silver medals with second place finishes in the 25 free (21.58), the 200 free (3:56.45) and the 50 back (55.10). He also placed seventh in the 100 free and eighth in the 50 free. He, too, surpassed his qualifying time in five out six events.
Edmonds took gold in the 25 free at 40.79, cutting more than six seconds off her qualifying time. She also claimed seventh in the 25 and 50 back events.
“A lot of them were taking about 20 seconds off their times, which in swimming is quite a bit,” said Deal-Porter.
Track runner Darby McIntyre also cut time to achieve a milestone. McIntyre cracked the 18-minute mark for his first time to win silver in the 5,000-metre at 17:50.16. He also won silver in the 1,500-metre (4:54.39) and the 3,000-metre (10:45.13). McIntyre won a gold and bronze on the track at the world Games two years ago.
Athletics teammate Jessica Pruden ran and jumped to hardware. Prudent sped to silver in the 100-metre (18.70) and leapt to silver in the long jump (1.47m). She also placed fourth in the 200-metre (42.71) and sixth in the women’s 3.5Kg shot put (3.5m).
Yukon’s soccer team — Kenny Atlin, Rachel Dawson, Teddy Jackson, Chris Lee, Duncan McRae, Gaetan Michaud, Owen Munroe, Stefan Oettli, Jasmin Stange, Michael Sumner and Anna Thompson — placed fifth in division B. They lost to Victoria, Cowichan and Delta, but pulled off a hard-fought 3-3 tie against Vancouver. The team features eight players from the team that won the territory its first-ever gold at the national Games in 2014.
“They actually played in a division higher than they were placed in at the previous national Games. They played in division B, which is a success on its own,” said Deal-Porter.
“In that game (against Vancouver) they just left their hearts on the field. Gaets Michaud made some incredible saves, all the athletes played a really solid game, they played their positions very well and you could really see they worked on their game.
“It was awesome to watch, really was a team effort.”
Yukon’s bocce team of Trevor Beemish, Taylor Pooyatak-Amundson, Carrie Rudolph and Theresa Roberts placed fourth in their division.
Golfer Tijana McCarthy hit the links for her second B.C. Summer Games. She patched together a pair of 83s to place fourth.
“Coming from her coach Janine Peters, she could really see how her game improved throughout the competition, so we’re excited to see how Tijana does next,” said Deal-Porter.
McCarthy, swimmer Chua and soccer player Sumner represented Canada at the Special Olympics World Winter Games this past March in Austria, with McCarthy and Sumner figure skating and Chua cross-country skiing. All three captured medals.
“We definitely had challenges,” added Deal-Porter of the weekend. “We came from Whitehorse where temperatures weren’t that high to — going into Friday it was 37 degrees. So just having that change in temperature put everyone in a tired or bad mood, but everyone fought through that and came out and gave it their best.
“Another thing to note was that it was very smoky from all the fires in B.C. and the athletes aren’t used to practicing in that either. They fought through and gave it 110 per cent.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com