Salt Spring athletes return with more than medals

High moral standards shine in all involved

Salt Spring athletes won an impressive number of medals at the 2017 Special Olympics BC Summer Games, but the standings were low on the list of accomplishments when they reflected on the event.

From July 6 through 8, Kamloops saw the biggest SOBC provincial tournament ever, with nearly 1,200 athletes and over 350 volunteer support staff attending. Ten buses filled with Region 6 athletes, coaches and support volunteers went to the Interior from Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast.

Although Salt Spring’s six attending athletes had a strong showing at the podium, coaches, athletes and support volunteers all spoke about how much they appreciated each other before mentioning the results of the tournament. It isn’t surprising that key values in the mission statement for the SOBC are inclusion, diversity, empowerment and respect, values embodied by the participants.

Swimmer Debbie McNaughton won a gold medal in the 25-metre freestyle, a silver in the 50-m backstroke and a bronze in the 25-m backstroke. For her, a large part of the tournament was about overcoming a major obstacle to the competition and the gratitude she had for the people around her.

“It was really fun and it was a big shock for me. A year ago I broke my ankle and two weeks after getting the cast off I went into regionals,” she said.

McNaughton had surgery to remove the metal ankle supports, which took her out of training for four weeks in the lead-up to this year’s event.

“Everybody was really supportive and stuff and wishing everybody good luck,” she added.

Jason Newport, another swimmer, had a near miss at the podium, ranking fourth in two swimming events.

“It was a really tight race. I was just a second away from the other guy from touching the wall,” Newport said.
He noted some of his favourite moments of the tournament happened between races.

“Sometimes when we’re waiting for our race . . . there is a bit of a wait and so you’re sitting on these benches and you keep moving forward towards your race and I enjoy being with friends and getting to know people,” Newport said.

Dawn Hadler was the third swim-team member. She won a gold medal in the 50-m backstroke, silver medals in 50-m freestyle and 25-m backstroke, and a bronze medal for the 25-m freestyle.

Swimming coach Charlene Wolff reflected on the first-time showing for Salt Spring swimmers at the provincials. Wolff helped put together a swim team on Salt Spring six years ago. She moved to the Lower Mainland in January, but continued coaching on the island.

“We’ve been working so hard for this, so I had to go back and forth,” she said. “It’s hard to let go of something that you [helped] start.”

Wolff will be working with teams in the Lower Mainland in the future.

For more on this story, including bocce results and interview see the July 19, 2017 issue of the Driftwood newspaper or subscribe online.

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