Last weekend, Vernon saw more than 600 athletes with intellectual disabilities, who gave their all in the 2019 Special Olympics BC Winter Games.
After earning their spots in the 2019 SOBC Games through Regional Qualifiers in 2018, the competitors from all over B.C. trained hard with the year-round Special Olympics programs in their hometowns to be able to pursue personal bests in Vernon.
Inspiring many with their work ethic and positive attitudes, the athletes delivered outstanding performances and were a shining example of the way Special Olympics athletes turn the spotlight on abilities and change the way the world sees people with intellectual disabilities. About 1,220 medals were awarded to proud athletes; their smiles lit up the podiums.
Supported by more than 200 dedicated volunteer coaches and mission staff, the athletes competed in the eight SOBC winter sports, and the Greater Vernon venues – SilverStar Mountain Resort, Sovereign Lake Nordic Club, the Greater Vernon Recreation Complex, and Lincoln Lanes – provided outstanding fields of play and warm welcomes.
More than 800 volunteer shifts were claimed by kind and enthusiastic people who provided outstanding support and impressive positive energy throughout the two-day event.
“In the Opening Ceremony, I told the athletes to give it their all and inspire us, and they absolutely did. I declare Greater Vernon inspired,” 2019 SOBC Games Chair Glenn Benischek said. “The response from this community was so incredible. So many volunteers and sponsors chose to get involved, and they brought such great energy and interest. Everyone I talked to was so positive.”
Top performers from the SOBC Games in Vernon qualified for spots on Team BC and will compete in the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay, Ontario, which will be the national qualifier for the 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Sweden. Team B.C. 2020 members will be announced in the spring.
“My first Provincial Games in 2015 led me all the way to World Games in Austria and to Parliament Hill with Team Canada meeting Justin Trudeau. (The journey) was amazing. I feel proud of myself for making it that far and for doing my best and working so hard,” said SOBC Kelowna snowshoer Tony Wilkinson.
While the 2019 SOBC Games are now over, the year-round Special Olympics sport, youth, and health programs in Vernon and 55 communities around the province continue to change lives through the power and joy of sport. There are many opportunities to get involved with the inspiring and fun Special Olympics family; new members are always welcome to participate, volunteer, and donate.
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