Team P.E.I. ready for 2016 Special Olympics National Winter Games

Jason Simmonds
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These are exciting times for 28 Special Olympics P.E.I. athletes.

Team P.E.I., which is comprised of members from across the province, will head to the 2016 Special Olympics National Winter Games in Corner Brook, N.L., on Monday. Practising, divisioning and competition begins the following day, and continues until March 5.


"All these athletes attended qualifying events in 2014 and 2015, and then there was a selection committee who reviewed all the results and there is a process in which athletes are selected," explained Team P.E.I. chef-de-mission Matthew McNally. "They started training as a team in April 2015, and have been attending at least three sessions a week right up until now - fitness, sport specific training along with some mental and nutrition training as well."

Team P.E.I., which also includes nine coaches and five mission staff members, will compete in five of the seven sports - cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey and snowshoeing. P.E.I. is not represented in speed skating and Alpine skiing.

"There is one athlete, (floor hockey player) Tommy MacGuigan, who is attending his 15th national competition, but there are also 12 attending for the very first time," said McNally. "It should be a very exciting week for everyone."

The National Winter Games is a qualifying event for Team Canada's entry at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.

"We would anticipate at least one (P.E.I.) athlete being on Team Canada for sure," said McNally, who noted Team P.E.I's goals include teams and athletes progressing into new divisions and beating previous best times.

"As a team in general, we are focusing on positive attitudes and putting our very best efforts forward," continued McNally. "It's going to be a long week for many of these athletes.

"They are not used to a week-long competition, where they are busy from the early hours of the day until the late hours of the night."

As is the case at any Special Olympics' event, this experience is a lot more than just competition for the athletes.

"It really is," reiterated McNally. "It's an opportunity for part of the Special Olympics family in Canada to get together, and celebrate the fantastic abilities that each athlete has.

"We have 28 athletes attending the Games, but there are 300 who work week in and week out in their community programs. It's important to recognize their efforts as well."

Organizations: Team Canada, Special Olympics

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Corner Brook, Stratford Summerside Austria Murray Harbour Canada Bonshaw Kinkora Kensington

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