As Whitehorse’s Darby McIntyre circled the track, legs pumping in the scorching Los Angeles heat, there was one thought on his mind: “I am not going to lose this race, I am going to get a medal.”
That ardent determination served him well. McIntyre captured gold and bronze in athletics at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games last week in California.
“I’m pretty pumped and excited … I look forward to bringing these medals back there,” said McIntyre.
The 15-year-old, who was one of the youngest athletes on Team Canada at the Games, won gold in the 5,000-metre race on Friday and bronze in the 1,500-metre on Saturday.
His two medals came in two very different fashions.
In the 5,000-metre, McIntyre took the lead on the first lap and never looked back. He finished with a time of 18 minutes and 36.31 seconds – a personal best in competition – beating the silver medalist from Lithuania by 10.88 seconds. He even lapped a pair of runners before reaching the finish line.
“I wanted to get sub-18, but I got 18:36 – which is still pretty good,” said McIntyre.
In the 1,500-metre, it was a final-lap push that put him on the podium. McIntyre overtook two competitors to move from fifth to third at the end of the race. He crossed the line with a personal best time of 4:52.70, just 3.61 seconds behind the silver medalist from Thailand and 16.2 seconds behind the gold medalist from Libya.
Going into the final lap, “I was like, I want to win a medal in this race,” said McIntyre. “So I decided I was going to up my game a little bit and pick up the pace.”
“It was a very, very fast race,” said Special Olympics Yukon executive director Serge Michaud. “The athletes came out off the line sprinting. It was bananas.”
In the 5,000, “No one was even close to him … It was a beautiful race to watch.”
McIntyre is just the second Yukoner to compete at the Special Olympics World Summer Games. The first was Tyler Repka at the 1983 Games in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“It’s crazy hot here and relatively humid, smoggy,” said Michaud. “There’s 165 countries represented here and to watch Darby yesterday and today, running against athletes from Zimbabwe and
Thailand and Libya – you really know you’re part of something big when you see Darby sitting down and trading pins with somebody from Costa Rica. It’s a really surreal experience.
“I can tell you I have never seen an athlete handle the day-to-day eye-opener (factor) as well as Darby. He’s cool as a cucumber running his races and is doing very well.”
McIntyre was named to Team Canada last September following a standout performance at the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games where he captured silver in the shot put and in the 5,000-metre. He got to nationals after a stellar performance the previous summer at the Special Olympics British Columbia Summer Games where he also won gold in the 5,000-metre and bronze in the 1,500-metre.
“Winning gold in the 5,000-metre and bronze in the 1,500-metre, I felt like I was back at provincials,” said McIntyre. “The only thing that changed was my times … It just goes to show my coaches and coaches on Team Canada, they helped me get better and get faster.”
“What I can tell you is I think we have a young man here who is a bit of a diamond in the rough and he absolutely has a tremendous amount of talent and a lot of potential in sport,” said Tom Norton, McIntyre’s coach on Team Canada.
“He is tremendously disciplined on and off the track when it comes to putting his mind to what he wants to accomplish. On the track he is very determined.”
Though McIntyre was racing for Canada far from home, he had plenty of supporters in the stands. Over 30 members of McIntyre’s family made the trip to L.A. for the Games. In fact, Special Olympics
Yukon president Thomas Gibbs presented McIntyre his gold in the medal ceremony.
“It has been a great couple of days for Canada, a great couple of days for Yukon and definitely a great couple days for Darby and his family,” added Michaud.
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