Lunenburg/Queens Special Olympians ready for national championships

SOUTH SHORE - Several Special Olympians from the area will be taking giving their all at the National Special Olympic Games that take place in Calgary in late February.

A group of snowshoers and curlers will represent Team Nova Scotia, who were chosen based on their performances from recent provincial competitions.

Snowshoe athletes heading west are coached by Earl Mielke, Susan Inglis and Betty Ann Daury, include Rebecca Delaney, Jillian Young, Michael Moreau and Nick Skoreyko for the Lunenburg/Queens region. Joining them will be Nikita Penney from the the Shelburne Region and Brian Waring from the Dartmouth region.

The curling team consists of Krista Stockman, Tyson Herritt, Jason Rafuse and Ben Theriau. They are coached by Jim Stockman and Quentin Herritt.

Team Nova Scotia will leave Halifax on Feb. 24 and return March 3.


Nationally, there will be 100 snowshoers competing at the games with 37 coaches involved.

Events include the 100m and 200m races, along with the five kilometre and 10 kilometre races. All but one athlete, Waring, will compete in these the first two events, while Waring will take on the nation's best in the two longer endurance events.

Mielke said the athletes are training three times a week for the last three months. This includes one day in the fitness studio at Queens Place Emera Centre for core/strength and cardio training. During the other two days, practice has consisted of running with the snowshoes in the park on the grass.

"We are literally praying for snow right now. We're waiting to go to Kinsmen field within the next two or three weeks to run on the track with snow. If we don't get snow we may take them to one of the beaches," he said in a very recent interview. An answer to prayer? A lack of snow shouldn't be a problem for the next few weeks, anyway.

Mielke said his group is an experienced one and "take direction well and have a good focus."

"A lot of it is the social part; getting together and having fun with one another," he said. "For the athletes it's not necessarily about winning, but it's about having fun and seeing their friends. As a coach it feels good to be able to be theree and support these athletes, that otherwise may not have this opportunity."

He noted, that having four of the six snowshoers on Team Nova Scotia, come from the Lunenburg/Queens program, is a credit to the coaching staff for all of their hard work.

He also gave a shout-out to the South Shore businesses and residents who have always shown amazing support for the Special Olympians whether it be through fundraisers or, "we were in the Region of Queens Christmas parade, we were parade marshals in Bridgewater. When you are marching with these athletes and hear the cheers they give to the spectators, then the cheers you get back from those watching, it just puts a smile on your face."

Top athletes in each division will be asked to represent Canada at the World Games to be held in Torino, Italy in March 2025.

Jim Stockman is the head coach for the Lunenburg/Queens curling team who says the team is so excited.

"They're excited to go. Ever since they qualified, that's all they talked about," said Stockman. "There was some hootin' and hollering going on."

The team competed in a provincial qualifier in Greenwood in January and in the final defeated Annapolis County in an extra end.

"It was one of the most excited game of curling that I've ever witnessed," said Stockman. "We were up by two points going into the last end and they tied it up."

The team has been busy training on and off the ice. They are only able to get on the ice once a week in Chester, but Stockman has the team committed doing at least 10,000 steps per day and eating healthy.

The players are spread out, coming from Yarmouth, Chester and the Port Mouton area, which makes it hard to practise together, but they have been true to what Stockman has asked of them.

In Calgary, there is scheduled to be 22 teams competing. Each team will compete in three, two-end games that will decide where each team fits in.

The teams will be grouped together with other teams of equal skill level. They then will play off against the other teams in their division, possibly a minimum of five games, suggested Stockman.

Stockman said that the number one goal on the trip is to make sure everyone has fun, but he said they also want to win.

"When it comes time to play, they are very serious no matter what they are playing. They have fun at it, but they are going out and giving their A game every time," he said.

While the snowshoeing athletes will have a chance to head to Paris, curling will not be offered as a sport athlete the World Games, so the nationals will be the final stop for this set of athletes this year.

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