Yukon will be represented by the largest territorial team ever assembled at the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games next week in Vancouver.
The territory is sending a team of 39, with 24 athletes, up from 18 at the 2010 national Games in which Team Yukon collected 12 medals.
It’s the largest team ever sent to the quadrennial Games from Canada’s three territories and a sign of Special Olympics Yukon’s continuing success, said Yukon Chef de Mission Janine Peters.
“It’s absolutely a success and every year we hope to grow a little more and more,” said Peters. “Every year we hope to have a bigger team.
“A lot of these guys are veterans … There’s probably four new athletes. There are a lot of returning who might have competed at a provincials or nationals in a different sport.”
The team received a warm send-off at Special Olympics Yukon’s pep rally on Friday at the Yukon Inn, with speeches from Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis, Yukon MP Ryan Leef, Yukon Senator Dan Lang and champion curling skip Sarah Koltun, among others.
The large Yukon squad also learned who will lead them into the opening ceremonies with team veteran Marvin Hall named Yukon’s flag-bearer.
Hall will be competing in his second national Games with over 15 years of competition under his belt.
At his first national Games in 2010, Hall won Yukon’s first-ever gold medal in five-pin bowling.
“In preparation for these Games he’s been training with his soccer teammates three times a week and is very committed and dedicated,” said Peters. “He rarely complains about the hard work that is asked of him and is very supportive of his teammates.
“I am confident he will do a terrific job leading Team Yukon 2014 into the opening ceremonies.”
This year’s team also includes the first Yukoners to compete in golf and bocce at the national Games.
Golfer Jean-Sebastien Gallant earned a spot at nationals with his performance at the 2013 Special Olympics British Columbia Summer Games last year.
“He’s been to two test events and the provincials last year, which qualified him to go to nationals this year,” said Peters.
Yukon’s bocce team of Aimee Lien, Taylor Amundson, Trevor Beemish and Teresa Roberts rolled their way to bronze at the B.C. Games and will be the first to compete at the nationals.
Yukon will be represented on the track by Jessica Pruden and Darby McIntyre.
McIntyre, who is the youngest athlete on the team at just 14 years old, won four medals at the B.C. Games. Next week will be his first nationals.
“It’s awesome,” said McIntyre. “I just love being about to show off my fitness and Special Olympics makes it all possible. I’m thankful for all my coaches.”
Ernest Chua and Kevin Spoffard are hoping to make a splash next week in the swimming competition. Chua won three gold medals in B.C. and Spofford collected three silver and a bronze.
Yukon will also be knocking pins in Vancouver as Carrie Rudolph, Garry Chaplin, Hayley Halushka, Lisa Bachli and Tyler Repka compete in five-pin bowling.
“I think we’re going to do really well in our national Games in five-pin bowling, and I think the rest of the team will do their best as well,” said Rudolph. “Just have fun – that’s all I plan on doing.”
Yukon’s largest contingent is the soccer team with 10 players and three coaches. Set to take the pitch are Gaetan Michaud, Kenny Atlin, Rachel Dawson, Teddy Jackson, Marvin Hall, Christopher Lee, Duncan McRae, Owen Munroe, Steven McGundy and Mike Sumner, who won silver in figure skating at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in South Korea.
“This is definitely the most enthusiastic team,” said Peters. “I’ve worked with these athletes for 12-plus years as a volunteer and I’ve seen them grow into young, strong athletes with determination. They’re just amazing. They bring out the best in us. It just makes me really proud to be a part of this.”
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