On Saturday, FH Collins was bustling with 31 Special Olympics athletes competing in field, court and track events during the inaugural Development Games.
Split into four teams — Blue, Red, Yellow and Green — the athletes competed in four events: soccer, athletics (modified track and field), bocce and basketball.
There were “two existing sports that we wanted to revisit, to see if we can revive them a bit,” said Danielle Armstrong, program director of Special Olympics Yukon, of bocce and basketball. “(We) give them all the opportunity to see what they’ve got.”
“It’s just an opportunity to see it, see if they liked it, see if they want to try it next year and maybe generate some interest in new athletes joining,” said Leah Greenway, one of the coaches for the blue team and a Special Olympics Yukon coach.
“For a lot of them, when it’s new, it’s a little bit scary. So we just ask them to try it and if they are sure they don’t want to participate they can sit out — but I haven’t seen it yet. Everybody’s giving 110 per cent.”
However, Development Games did more than introduce athletes to new sports, it also focused on good sportsmanship. Therefore, only teams won awards, not individuals.
“We didn’t want everybody pushing for first place, second place,” said Armstrong. “So we have Best Banner, Best Team Cheer, Helping Hands — which was a sort of sportsmanship award — and the Most Energetic.
“If you didn’t want to participate in a new sport, didn’t want to try it, but were there to cheer everyone on, maybe you would end up with that award for your team.”
With multiple games going on at the same time, it was hard to keep track of every team, but it was easy to see the enthusiasm for the new events among the athletes.
“Basketball,” said athlete Sidney Stewart, when asked which of the new sports he enjoyed more.
“I just started playing and it’s really nice.”
Stewart also competed in all the athletics events, including the long jump and softball throw, but his favourite were the sprinting events, running the 100-metre in 21.4 seconds.
“I just love to run,” added Stewart, a Grade 10 student at Porter Creek High School.
“All the athletes are having a really good time,” said Gates Michaud, another athlete. “It’s a chance to hang out with your friends for the day.
“It’s just a great time. I mean Serge (Michaud, Executive Director of Special Olympics Yukon,) and Danielle and the whole staff did a really awesome job for the first Development Games ever and next year’s going to be better.”
The athletes were not the only ones excited about the Games.
Organizers are hoping the Games will become an annual event and will lead to the creation of similar events.
“Maybe we want to do this in the winter, bring in some winter sports,” said Armstrong.
“It’s come up a few times. We’ve found that, doing it in the summer, it was really hard to nail down a date (because) people are on holidays, we’ve got such a short summer and other events are happening all around.
“We hold a lot of our sports in the wintertime, so we might have a higher number of athletes and volunteers if we possibly did it in the winter.”
The opening ceremonies took place Friday night at the Yukon Arts Centre.
The awards ceremony and dance was held at the Legion Hall on Saturday evening after the games.