“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”
– Vince Lombardi, American football coach
“I didn’t even think about stopping. I just got back up and kept going.” At the Special Olympics BC Winter Sport Championships last season, with just a few metres left to the finish line in her 100m race, snowshoer Katie Little took a heartbreaking fall that could have cost her the race. Although Coach Ron Aarstad acknowledges that it likely did cost her the gold medal, the Burnaby, BC athlete went on to win a bronze in her division. Katie followed up with a silver in the 400m, helping her clinch a spot on Team BC for the upcoming Special Olympics Canada Winter Games being held in St. Albert, Alberta from February 28 to March 3, 2012.
A total of approximately 700 athletes with intellectual disabilities from all corners of Canada will meet in St. Albert to compete in seven winter sports including snowshoeing. Over the past two years, these Special Olympics athletes have worked their way through regional and provincial competitions to qualify for the National Games.
I was thrilled to recently meet Katie and three of her Team BC teammates who will compete at the Games against elite snowshoe athletes from all across Canada. Katie and Coquitlam athlete Andrew Wiseman live close enough to one another in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland that they both train with Coach Ron Aarstad. Victor Manna lives in Victoria on Vancouver Island, and Sheryl Jakubowski is from Fort St. John in the northern part of the province. It struck me that they all share
Katie’s strong determination and dedication to Special Olympics and the sport of snowshoeing. In addition, they are all extremely excited about the upcoming Games.
Andrew Wiseman was thrilled when he captured a gold medal in the 200m and a silver in the 100m at the 2011 provincial championships, and he’s hungry for a repeat podium performance in St. Albert. All of the Team BC athletes attended a training camp early in the season, which gave them guidance on fitness, nutrition, sportsmanship, and sports psychology. Andrew describes some of the strategies he learned to stay cool and focus on the job at hand: “When you’re at the starting line, the only thing you need to think about is you. Don’t let other people distract you.” He adds that they actually did some drills where there were simulated distractions to help the athletes practice staying focused.
Another Team BC tool that all four of the athletes use faithfully is a training journal to record both physical activity and food intake. Victor Manna finds it helps him stay motivated and monitor his nutrition. It’s obviously working – as Coach Daniel Mallet says, “Victor is in the best shape he’s been in for the past three years.” At last season’s provincial games, Victor brought home gold, silver, and bronze medals in the 100m, 400m, and 200m respectively, and hopes to do even better at the National Games. Based in balmy Victoria, Victor has the challenge of not having any local snow to train on. He works around this nicely with ramped-up dryland training, along with participation in several other Special Olympics sports. To find snow, Victor makes monthly trips to Vancouver Island’s Mt. Washington with coaches and other area Special Olympics snowshoers. It’s a four-hour drive each way. Did I mention “dedication”?
But it isn’t all about making it to the podium and bringing home medals. All four of the athletes I spoke with are inspiring advocates for Special Olympics and good sportsmanship, and are active volunteers in their communities. Sheryl Jakubowski, who was presented with a sportsmanship award for her 2010-11 snowshoe season, is a case in point. Sheryl volunteers with the Salvation Army, has a busy job, is helping to spread the nutrition message to her family, and is known as someone who is always willing to lend a helping hand.
Sheryl somehow manages to fit in all of this, plus a rigorous training schedule with her coach Joanne Farwell. She won an astounding three gold medals at the provincial championships last year in the 400m, 800m, and 1600m, as well as a bronze in the 200m. “Sheryl is the most dedicated athlete I have ever trained,” Joanne says. In their northern location, Sheryl and Joanne usually have lots of snow to train on, and are typically on snowshoes three times a week. If by chance the weather doesn’t co-operate, they head for the indoor track or do stair climbs in the local arena. Sheryl simply loves being active. “It keeps me healthy and fit.”
So, what do the athletes expect will happen in St. Albert? All of them hope their efforts will produce medals, with Katie and Andrew both noting the possibility of qualifying for the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Korea. Meeting new friends from across Canada is huge for Sheryl, and the other athletes echo the importance of this social component of the Games. And speaking of social, I’m told that Victor has even been known to bust a dance move or two after a hard day of snowshoe racing.
One thing that became crystal clear to me as I spoke to all four of these impressive Special Olympics athletes is that through sheer hard work, determination and dedication, they will all do an astounding job of representing British Columbia on the national stage.
Snowshoe Magazine sends best wishes to Andrew, Katie, Sheryl, Victor, and all of the Special Olympics snowshoe athletes who will be competing in St. Albert, Alberta from February 28 to March 3, 2012. To follow the action, check the official Special Olympics Canada Winter Games website (http://stalbert2012.ca/en/).