The territory will be represented in curling for the first time at the Special Olympics Canada National Winter Games next February, Special Olympics Yukon told a news conference on Thursday at Sport Yukon.
Four curlers, along with three other athletes, will compete at the Games in St. Albert, Alberta, from late February to early March next year.
“The (curling) program has been in existence for about eight years and most of them have been training for about three or four at this point,” said Amber Church, Yukon chef de mission for the Games. “They qualified last year at the BC Provincials.”
On the ground-breaking Yukon rink are lead Christopher Lee, second Gaetan Michaud, third Darrin Lucas and skip Colin Sterriah.
All four competed at the 2010 National Summer Games in London, Ontario, for soccer, winning silver, while Lee also competed at the 2006 National Summer Games for soccer, taking in a bronze.
Michaud competed in the 1994 and 1998 National Summer Games in Team Quebec’s athletics squad, accumulating five medals, including a gold in the 800-metre.
The rink qualified for the Games by finishing fourth in the highest division at the BC Provincials early this year.
“They’re all back in their programs, training a few times a week,” said Church.
On board to represent the territory in cross-country skiing are the two most experienced athletes on the team, Garry Chaplin and Owen Munroe.
Chaplin has competed at five National Games – summer and winter – and the 2005 World Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, for cross-country skiing, winning a gold, silver and bronze. He has also won four medals at the national Games.
For Chaplin, the Games will be a return to his roots, having first competed at the national level in Prince Albert in 2002 for fivepin bowling.
“That’s where I got started with all the nationals I’ve been to,” said Chaplin. “I had a good trip there.”
Munroe has competed at three National Games and the 2009 World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho, winning two bronzes for skiing. At the national level, Munroe has won a bronze in soccer, a gold in skiing and two golds in athletics.
“I feel really proud of myself because I did really well at the provincials and I look forward to going back to my second winter nationals,” said Munroe. “I’m going to try my best and have fun. I’m looking forward to going to St. Albert … and to trying out their snow.”
Like their curling teammates, Chaplin and Munroe will be part of a Yukon Special Olympics first in St. Albert. The two classic-technique skiers will team up with athletes from Nova Scotia to participate in a relay race for the first time.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever entered a relay team because we usually don’t get the quota of athletes to run a team,” said Church. “So (Special Olympics Canada) allowed the smaller chapters to combine to make a team.”
The Yukon is also sending figure skater Michael Sumner, who qualified for the Games by winning silver at the BC Provincials in February.
“It will be his first time at a national Games, so he’s terribly excited,” said Church.
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