The 2017 Special Olympics Alberta Summer Games are less than a year away, and Grande Prairie has athletes in almost every sport preparing to take part. An official fall kickoff and registration day was held Saturday, but Head Coach Kelly Hollahan says those headed to provincials qualified over the last couple of years.
“Our teams have been picked so now we have to work on just fine tuning the etiquette part of it, like expectations. For some of our athletes, this is actually their first time going, but some of our senior veterans have been to many sports [events].”
Finding new and younger team members is a goal for this year. Last year the group reached between 130 and 140 athletes with intellectual disabilities, but Hollahan says they’re always looking for more.
“A lot of our returning athletes are coming back. We’ve been pushing the last year, so we’re really trying to promote getting new athletes, kind of the younger crowd. Our dynamic is a lot of older individuals and we don’t have a lot of the younger crowd coming in, so we’ve gone to the schools more this time around.”
There are programs for people ages two and up. They’re also always in need of new coaches and volunteers to make sure the athletes get the best experience possible. As they prepare for provincials in Medicine Hat next July, Hollahan stresses that while the team is a way to promote physical fitness among people with intellectual disabilities, but it’s not just about competition.
“At one of the last meets, one of the biggest things that all the other teams and the coaches were saying was that Grande Prairie’s swim team had phenomenal sportsmanship. They were very polite to the people taking time, they would high five them, say thank you. Medals mean nothing as far as we’re concerned; that was huge for us.”
Despite that, Grande Prairie has seen success in the games. 10 pin bowlers from GP have made it all the way to the last two world games. Athletes in bowling, swimming soccer, gymnastics, power lifting and golf have qualified for next July.