Yukon Special Olympians returned home from the Special Olympics World Winter Games last week in Austria with memories and new friendships that will last a lifetime.
And let’s not forgot about the medals.
All three Yukon athletes — figure skaters Michael Sumner and Tijana McCarthy, and cross-country skier Ernest Chua — collected hardware at the Games that wrapped up on March 25.
“We can tell he is super happy, super proud of his own achievement,” said Chua’s mom Shirley Chua-Tan in an email to the News. “He wants to wear both his medals all the time to tell the world that he won.”
Chua, who was competing at his first worlds, has plenty of reason to show off his hardware.
The 26-year-old captured gold in the 500-metre freestyle race on March 23. He finished with a time of 3:01.20, six seconds ahead of the silver medalist from Austria.
Chua also collected a silver medal in the 4×1-kilometre co-ed relay on March 22. He and Canadian teammates Jacqueline Gravel, Allie Libertini and Dennis Lynch took the medal with a time of 28:13.10.
Chua opened the Games with a fourth place finish in the one-kilometre free technique on March 21. He was just three and a half seconds from the bronze.
A common characteristic of top athletes is confidence. Sumner fits that mould.
“It went pretty well. (I’m) second in the world still,” said Sumner. “I knew I was going to get silver.”
Sumner made it two in a row last week. The 20-year-old won silver in his singles skating competition, matching his finish at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in South Korea — his first world championship.
In 2013 he competed in Level 1, last week he competed in Level 2.
“It was a harder competition,” said Sumner. “It was an amazing experience as always. The world came together again.”
His standout moment: “Standing on the podium again and defending my silver medal,” said Sumner. “(And) meeting new people and cheering on people from Canada.”
McCarthy who was also competing at her first worlds, picked up a silver medal in the figure skating singles competition on March 21.
“I’m very happy,” said McCarthy, adding she feels she performed to the best of her abilities.
The 19-year-old said the Games were fun and she was excited to compete. She especially enjoyed making new friends and dancing.
Speaking of which, McCarthy picked up a second silver medal in a dance contest that took place as a demonstration sport. She danced to Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake.
When asked what was her favourite thing about the Games, she said Team Canada skating coach Barb Trystai.
“She was really nice,” said McCarthy.
“Thank you Barb and thank you Michelle (Semaschuk, a Special Olympics Yukon coach),” she added.
All three Yukoners were selected for Team Canada following gold medal wins at the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook, N.L.
Last week marked first time three Yukon athletes have at competed together at a Special Olympics World Games, which featured 3,000 athletes from 110 countries.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org