Special Olympics Yukon has plenty to be proud of, but the journey is not over yet.
Competing in the 2009 Special Olympics BC Provincial Summer Games last weekend in Abbotsford, BC, Yukon athletes won seven medals, including three golds, and have earned spots at the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games being held next year in London, Ontario.
In fact, no one went home empty handed.
In just her first summer or winter Games, Whitehorse’s Jessica Pruden, 20, produced personal bests in all four of her events. However, topping her list of achievements were gold-medal performances in the 100-metre dash and shot put. She also took silver in the standing long jump.
“I like all of them—I can’t decide which one I like best,” she said.
Pruden reached 4.91-metres in the shot-put and 1.14-metres in the standing long jump. But, best of all, Pruden shaved off more than seven seconds on her 100-metre, coming in at 18.92 seconds.
“When she’s asked to do something she delivers it,” said her coach Lindsay Agar. “She’s one of those athletes where you can sit down and say, ‘This is what I want you to work on.’ And that’s exactly what she’ll do.”
Yukon’s other multiple medal winner was Whitehorse’s Owen Munroe, 21, winning gold in the standing long jump and a silver in the 1,500-metre run.
“I tried me best and was really proud of winning the medals,” said Munroe. “I’m actually most proud of running the five-kilometre (event)—I got a personal best.”
Both Pruden and Munroe train at the FH Collins Secondary School’s gravel track. In Abbotsford, they competed on a rubber track, which Munroe feels gave him more traction.
“I felt I was better on the rubber track,” said Munroe. “It’s not as slippery as the track here because the pebbles roll underneath your feet.”
Winning medals is nothing new to Munroe. In February, at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho, he won two bronze medals in cross-country skiing. Munroe earned his spot on the national team for Idaho by winning gold the previous year at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Quebec City, in the five-kilometre classic in cross-country skiing.
Yukon’s other two medals, both silvers, came in soccer and bocce.
On the soccer pitch, Team Yukon moved up a level from 2005’s Games into the B division by going 1-1 in the seeding rounds. Then in a round robin of five teams, Yukon went 3-1 with their only loss coming against Victoria, who went on to take gold.
“I think they were more happy that they moved to the B division than they were about the medal,” said Yukon’s head soccer coach Christina McGillivray. “There were five athletes that didn’t come with us to other Games and the team really pulled together and became a team at the tournament.
“For the five new ones it was really a thrill.”
Surprisingly, it was not the close games that McGillivray was most proud of her team for, but a lopsided 9-2 win over Delta, BC, because of great sportsmanship displayed by her players.
“The guys were willing to back off in that game and just have some fun with the other team,” said McGillivray. “The guys could have had a way higher score in that game if they really wanted to. They decided to play for fun.”
It was the first time that the Yukon sent a bocce team to the Games, competing in the C division, but their silver is hopefully a sign of things to come in the future.
“I think they did fabulous, considering we’re a first-year team and this is only our second year of having a bocce program,” said Yukon’s head bocce coach, Janine Peters. “They worked hard and they took direction really well.
“They worked as a team and that’s our whole goal.”
In their final game, against the gold-winning Campbell River team, Yukon overcame a 6-0 deficit, eventually tying the game 12-12. In the final minutes Campbell River scored twice to win.
The Games were the third-straight BC Provincials Yukon has sent a team to, having sent squads in 2001 and 2005. It was also the largest team sent and the largest medal haul, but medal counts are not the main measure of success, said Serge Michaud, executive director of Special Olympics Yukon.
“I don’t look at medals as progress, I look at the bocce team going for the first time and competing for gold,” said Michaud. “I look at how the soccer team went from C division to B division in four years. And I look at how there were so many personal bests.
“Don’t get me wrong, the medals are great, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is improvement on skill and to give our athletes the opportunity to shine in the sports they love to train and compete in.”
Many of the Yukon’s Special Olympians will be showing their skill at Yukon Special Olympics second-annual Development Games being held July 25 at FH Collins.
Kenny Atlin, Rachel Dawson, Willy Everett, Lester Gladue, Christopher Lee, Darrin Lucas, Gaetan Michaud, Stefan Oettli, Colin Sterriah, Patrick Sterriah, head coach Christina McGillivray, coach Grant MacDonald, coach Cody Wilkinson, mission staff Clayton Francis.
Mallory Pigage, Nick Ross, Caron Ross, Michael Sumner, head coach Janine Peters, mission staff Brant Gibbon.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org