The 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games will certainly be a special one for Yukon.
Three Whitehorse athletes from Special Olympics Yukon have been selected to represent Canada at the quadrennial event next March in Austria.
Never before has Yukon been represented by three athletes at a Special Olympics worlds.
Figure skaters Michael Sumner and Tijana McCarthy and cross-country skier Ernest Chua will be on the 110-athlete Team Canada, it was announced Tuesday.
“It’s great. It’s an opportunity most of the Yukon doesn’t have all the time,” said Sumner. “When they announced it at the Special Olympics banquet I was thinking, ‘I wonder who that could be.’ And then they said my name and I just got shocked all of a sudden.”
Austria will be Sumner’s second world championship. The 19-year-old won silver at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in South Korea.
“I love these Games. For my first one, it was just my rookie year in skating. But this time I’m going to be more prepared and bring home gold, hopefully,” said Sumner.
“I think it’s going to be a remarkable competition and we’re just going to reach for a personal best – that’s the only thing we can reach for,” he added.
“The Yukon knows we’re going to try 1,000 per cent to do our best at the World Games.”
All three athletes won gold medals at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games this past March in Corner Brook, N.L.
Chua captured gold in the 500-metre classic and silver in the one-kilometre classic.
Sumner and McCarthy won gold in Level 2 and Level 1, respectively. It was twice in a row for Sumner, who won gold at the 2012 Games.
“I was so happy for them. This is fantastic news,” said skating coach Michelle Semaschuk. “The fact that Mike and Tijana and Ernest have each other in this experience – in the past it would be one athlete who would go. They’ll have different coaches who they don’t work with every day … Mike has that experience, but for the other two it’s completely new.”
Sumner, McCarthy and Chua will officially start their journey to Austria with a Team Canada training camp over the May long weekend in Toronto. It will be an opportunity to meet the team’s 35 coaches and mission staff, two managers and the chef de mission.
“Special Olympics Yukon is excited to send three athletes as part of Special Olympics Team Canada, the largest representation ever from Yukon on our Canadian Team!” said Special Olympics Yukon president Thomas Gibbs in a news release. “They have shown dedication and commitment to reach their sport goals.”
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