Athletes say Special Olympics helps them travel and find friends — even their other half — and become part of a community
Eighty-nine athletes from the Canadian Special Olympics team came together from around the country in Richmond last week for three days of training at Hugh Boyd Park and other locations across the city.
This was the final face-to-face training for Team Canada before they depart for the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Berlin, Germany, in June and it marks their long-awaited return to the global stage since the last Special Olympics World Games in 2019.
“Special Olympics Canada chose Richmond for training camp. They do a great job and it’s a beautiful place, and we all love being here. The weather was perfect,” said Steve Dreger, assistant coach for the women’s soccer team.
“The Special Olympics provides a sporting experience for people with intellectual disabilities… and enriches their lives through sport. There are so many benefits through sport – confidence, exercise, being part of a community, meeting people, traveling… The Special Olympics provides that opportunity.”
Alyssa Chapman, a member of the Canadian women’s soccer team, has been involved in Special Olympics training since she was 10 years old. Having a full time job, he trains whenever he has time.
“I love the Special Olympics. Because of the Special Olympics, I found my fiancé and we have a daughter together,” Chapman told the Richmond News, adding his fiancé is also a soccer player for Team Canada.
“It gives me the opportunity to travel too. I travel mostly Canada. I went to two other Special Olympic Games – one in South Korea and one in Austria.”
A bocce team is a mixed team of four. Among them is Jenny Adams, who entered the Special Olympics at the age of 12.
“It has changed my life because it’s been great to be selected for bocce because I train so hard and I’m so excited about it,” Adams said.
Dreger said he hopes people know anyone interested in Special Olympics can find a way to get involved, whether by volunteering, coaching or becoming an athlete.
“There are all kinds of youth programs… Really, there is something for everyone who is interested. Take a look at your local Special Olympics website and you may find opportunities.”
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