More than 40 athletes and coaches from Port Alberni are heading to Vernon to compete in the Special Olympics provincial Winter Games Feb. 21–24.
This promises to be the largest-ever Special Olympics Winter Games in B.C., says Anne Evans, a spokesperson for the Port Alberni SOBC chapter. There will be approximately 600 athletes competing in eight sports: five-pin bowling, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing and speedskating.
The Vancouver Island/ Sunshine Coast team boasts 130 athletes.
Alberni athletes will compete in four of those sports: figure skating, floor hockey, curling and bowling.
The list of Port Alberni athletes is as follows:
Figure skating—Jamie Amos, Matt Macdonald, Kari Trott
Floor hockey—Andrew Geddes, Bill Mabley, Brad Cue, Brandon Pater, Dan Desbien, Kirk Margetish, Lee Anne Billy, Matt Deforge (coaches Barb VanZoeren and Barb Giesbrecht)
Curling—Michael Booth, Simone Myers, Cody Booth, Kim Giesbrecht, Sarah Riddalls (coaches Bill Scobbie, Russ Turnbull)
Bowling—Ken Rudd, Kim Ballan, Louisa Johnny, Ken Tassie, Jonah Noonan, Chris Schmitz, Richard Morgan, Dan Noble, Dakota Tate, Tyler Van Kooten, Ariel Gust, Cheyenne Jokinen, Jade Vilandre, Sebastien Thomas, Crystal Rousseau, Maurice Bernier, Tayler Atleo (coaches Trudy Knoll, Jennifer Knoll, Sean Noonan one-on-one)
Mission staff—Hollie Young, Joanne McMillan.
Simone Myers has been to the summer and winter provincials six times; most recently two summers ago for bowling. “I am going to the Winter Games on Feb. 21 for curling…I will try my personal best, and hopefully bring back a medal with my team,” she said.
Myers has been involved in Special Olympics for 17 years and has participated in five-pin bowling, swimming, curling, ring hockey, Club Fit, softball, track and field and bocce. She has earned two provincial silver medals and three bronze.
“My biggest dream in life is to win a gold, and go to the nationals in 2020 in Thunder Bay, ON,” she said. “The Special Olympics oath is ‘let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.’ I’ve made friends throughout my years going to tournaments or going to provincials, and I really do like making new friends in Special Olympics and sharing memories,” she added.
Myers said numerous people have helped her achieve success with Special Olympics, including the family she lives with in Port Alberni, her family that lives in the Lower Mainland, co-workers who cheer her on, her coaches “and the whole town of Port Alberni; whenever we ask for donations, you guys are there for Special Olympics.”
Curling coach Bill Scobbie is looking forward to accompanying the athletes to the provincial games. “They’re a lot of fun. They’re great athletes, they work hard, and the culmination of them working hard is they get to go to provincials,” he said.
“The biggest thing is this is about the athletes and how they succeed.”
Scobbie has coached curling and bocce for more than 10 years. In 2016 he supported athletes from Powell River as a coach in the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games. In 2017 he received Special Olympics BC’s Grassroots Coach Award. He has coached the five Port Alberni curlers for many years.
“I’ve been coaching some of them now for 12 to 14 years,” he said, adding that the team going to the provincials are five of 12 Special Olympians who curl on Tuesday nights. There were two teams that went to the regional championships and this team of five qualified for provincials. Scobbie’s stepsons Cody and Michael Booth will both be curling in Vernon.
“Their strength is they can adapt,” he said of the curlers. “They don’t get themselves stuck doing one thing. They can go with what they need to be successful—especially with Michael and Simone as third and skip. They talk so well. They can adapt and change strategies throughout the game.”
Communication will be key for the curlers, and Scobbie said he’s confident in his two leaders. “They’re such good communicators, all the other athletes listen to them.”
The SOBC Winter Games begin Thursday, Feb. 21 with opening ceremonies at Kal Tire Place. Competition takes place Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23, with the team travelling home to Port Alberni on Sunday, Feb. 24.