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Seven Yukon Special Olympians en route to B.C. Games

Team Yukon will hit the snow and ice next week with seasoned veterans and up-and-comers at the 2015 Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops next week.

Team Yukon will hit the snow and ice next week with seasoned veterans and up-and-comers at the 2015 Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops next week.

Special Olympics Yukon will send a team of seven athletes to the Games, it was announced Thursday. Four figure skaters and three cross-country skiers will represent the territory in Kamloops.

All of the athletes have previous Games experience, either at the provincial, national or international level, but a few are competing in their sport for the first time at the Games level.

“It’s a new thing for some of them but we’ve been training hard, been training twice a week,” said Yukon’s figure skating head coach Michelle Semaschuk. “They seem prepared. They got to have a test run at the Yukon (Figure Skating) Championships, so that’s good. It gave them a bit of experience of what to expect for the Games.

“We’re looking forward to having lots of fun and representing the Yukon well.”

Skating for Yukon are Aimee Lien, Tijana McCarthy and Theresa Roberts in Level 1 and Michael Sumner in Level 2.

“It’s good. I’m a little bit nervous going to Kamloops,” said Lien. “This is my first time, so I’m really nervous going away without my mom.”

Sumner is a veteran of the skating team. The 18-year-old won silver at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

He will also represent Yukon at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George the following week.

Sumner, whose routine has a Robin Hood theme, will be competing at Level 2 for his first time next week.

McCarthy will compete to a hip-hop techno beat. Roberts, who is skating at her second Games, will compete to jazz standard “Sing sing sing.” Lien will perform to an instrumental version of Avril Lavigne’s “My happy ending.”

Yukon’s cross-country team also contains an athlete with international competition under his belt.

Owen Munroe, who won two bronze medals in cross-country at the 2009 World Winter Games in Idaho, is set to compete next week.

The 27-year-old will be joined by teammates Darby McIntyre and Ernest Chua.

“We’re a small team, but I think we’re a strong team,” said ski coach Jerome McIntyre. “There’s quite a bit of diversity in the group. Our most experienced skier of course is Owen Munroe; Owen has competed at the provincial and national level, and went to the World Games in 2009 in Bosie, Idaho.

“He definitely does well at the longer distances. I think five-kilometres is the one he’s performed the best at in past competitions.”

Munroe and Darby will race the longer five- and 7.5-kilometre events. Chua, who captured a silver and a bronze in swimming at the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games, will compete in the shorter 500-metre and one-kilometre races.

“Ernest is fairly new to skiing; he’s in his second year of skiing,” said Jerome. “Ernest is better known as a swimmer but he started skiing when he came up here.”

Munroe played on Yukon’s first-ever gold-winning soccer team at the national Games last summer, while Lien and Roberts played on Yukon’s bronze-winning bocce team.

Darby competed in track and field, winning silver in the shot put and in the 5,000-metre.

Those results helped him land a spot on Team Canada for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games this July in Los Angeles, Calif.

“Darby is more of a distance, endurance athlete,” said Jerome. “This year, he’s certainly been skiing, but he’s been focusing a lot of attention on the bigger goal of what’s going to happen when he goes to Los Angeles next summer. He’s still doing a lot of running and snowshoe running with (Athletics Yukon head coach) Don White.”

Other Yukon team members include cross-country coach Helen Slama, skating coach/mission staffer Charlene Donald and chef de Mission Janine Peters.

“I’ve had two great coaches help with preparation on Wednesday night with Tanya Sage and Charlene Donald on Thursday night,” said Semaschuk. “Tanya has been helping the athletes prepare for the element portion of their competition on Wednesday night. So we’ve had a very supportive group leading up to this weekend.”

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