I was a figure skater for a long time. Singles, Pairs, Synchronized Skating. I did it all, for well over 15 years. I remember 6 AM training sessions, push-ups on the ice for every minute I was late, arguing with my coach, diets and competition days. I thought I knew what it meant to be an athlete. I knew it took hard work and dedication to be one of the best. But being an athlete means a lot more then that…
Dozens of Canadian athletes found themselves on their way to St. Albert, Alberta to kick off the opening ceremonies for Canada’s Annual Special Olympics. Similar to the Olympics we are all familiar with, the international event is held every four years; nationally it is held on a two-year rotation between the summer and winter games. From February 28th to March 3rd 2012, 700 athletes from all over Canada will compete in seven different sports throughout the duration of the games. Events the athletes can complete in include Floor Hockey, Alpine Skiing, Snow Shoeing, Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Cross Country Skiing and Curling. These athletes train and prepare both physically and mentally all year the same way any other athlete would prepare for their sport. These events currently taking place are the qualifying rounds for these Special Canadian athletes. The top in their field will move on to the 2013 World Winter Games in Pyeong Chang, South Korea.
The Special Olympics were first started in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver who was inspired by her sister who was intellectually delayed as well as other intellectually and physically challenged individuals. She created a space where they could equally show off their psychical skills and ability. Since 1968 the games have grown to include over three-million athletes from over 175 different countries. The games have helped individuals not only to realize their physical potential but also accomplish that potential. Harry “Red” Foster along with Dr. Frank Hayden a Canadian sports researcher, were the ones who pioneered the games being integrated into Canada.
The Canadian games are currently organized by the GOC (Games Organizing Committee). According to Special Olympics Canada website, the GOC works with both regional and provincial organizers to promote the games as well as awareness and programming for Canadians with intellectual and physically disabilities. The GOC is a collective group of business professionals who work to structure the best possible outcome for the games and its participants.
The Special Olympics are a non-profit organization that exists to enrich the lives of individuals who are of equal capacity to other members of a national, despite their disability. The point of the games seems that it is not to separate the athletes as different or unique but to prove that they can still be fully involved with physical activities. By creating a space where these athletes can exhibit the mastery of their craft, we can see the positive impact this can have. Understanding that athletes come in all forms, the same accomplishment might mean something important to different people for different reasons. This can give us hope that we are moving forward as more understanding and accepting to all members of our society.
I know what it means to be completely dedicated to a craft and I know what it means to give because someone told you that you would never make it. By giving a chance to athletes both of the Olympic Games and the Special Olympics, we are creating opportunities for people to prove their capability in a supporting environment. Ambassadors and sponsors such as the Royal Bank of Canada, CTV, TSN, Toyota and Telus are only a few of the sponsors to help support the Canadian Special Olympics. As we move further into the games we await the results of the events to see which athletes will make their way to South Korea in 2013.