2012 keeps getting better for the Prince Edward Island’s Special Olympics curling team.
The squad won gold at the Special Olympics National Winter Games in St. Albert, Alta, in March, received the P.E.I. Curling Association’s team of the year award in June, was recognized Tuesday in the provincial legislature and Thursday will receive team of the year distinction from Special Olympics Canada.
“We are really honoured and we’re really happy, for sure,” coach Dick St. John said Tuesday at Province House. “It’s sort of a crowning achievement for the team that’s worked (hard) for 10 years and has been very dedicated.”
The team of Phillip Chugg, Monique Gauthier, Chris MacPherson, John Anthony Laybolt and Greg St. John, with coaches Dick St. John and Ann Doucette, set goals and a comprehensive action plan 18 months before the nationals. The plan included technical skills development and work on the nutritional side to prepare them for nationals. They also worked on the mental side of the game with sport psychologist Tara Costello-Ledwell.
P.E.I. went 2-0-1 in round-robin play at the Winter Games and beat Nova Scotia 6-5 in an exciting final in St. Albert. Greg St. John has been curling for nine years and admitted there was some pressure at the final in Alberta.
“If you, of course, do your best and improve every year, you get used to the pressure,” he said.
The story of the team’s perseverance continued after nationals as the accolades continued to roll in. Every chapter across the country could submit a team from any sport for the national award.
“In less than 10 short years, these gold medal-winning P.E.I. athletes grew from a handful of individuals whose main concern was about not slipping and falling on the ice, to a team, which despite the undersized pool of curlers in our small province, developed personal, technical and team building skills and went on to demonstrate, on the Canadian stage, just how this major feat could be accomplished,” parent and team manager Paula Gauthier wrote in a letter to the nominating committee for the distinction.
Special Olympics Canada selected three finalists and sent a biography to each chapter with Prince Edward Island’s entry winning.
“Lo and behold they voted for us,” said Dick St. John, who didn’t know they had been nominated until they had won. “I think it was quite a surprise for all of the athletes.”
The team practised at the Charlottetown Curling Complex and played in a league at the Cornwall Curling Club. St. John said the support from everyone at both rinks was invaluable as the team prepared for their competition.
They will receive their award Thursday at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.