SUMMERSIDE — Months of hard work and preparation by Special Olympians across the country will be realized next week.
The Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games will take place in Vancouver, B.C., from July 8 to 12, and serve as a qualifier for the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles.
“They are such an amazing experience,” said Special Olympics P.E.I. executive director and Team P.E.I. chef de mission Charity Sheehan. “When we have new coaches come on our team I try to explain what is going to happen. But it’s one of those things you have to experience, and everybody experiences it so differently.
“The little things that happen, the funny stories, the moving moments that happen throughout the Games are unbelievably incredible.”
P.E.I. will send its largest-ever team to a Special Olympics Canada competition. The 61-member contingent consists of 43 athletes, 13 coaches and five mission staff.
“We are super excited about this team,” said Sheehan. “Our team is literally from tip to tip.”
Team P.E.I., which is scheduled to leave on Sunday, will compete in eight different sports — tenpin bowling, fivepin bowling, athletics, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and powerlifting.
This is the first time golf and powerlifting will be part of the National Summer Games, and soccer is returning for the first time since 2002. Sheehan coached Team P.E.I.’s soccer team that year.
“The soccer team was just a phenomenal group of individuals,” explained Sheehan. “We were in such a tough, tough division, but all they could do is thank you.
“You were feeling bad because they didn’t win or get to where you thought they might get, but they were just so unbelievably grateful for what you did. Those are some of the moments I carry with me, and make Special Olympics so near and dear to my heart.”
The Team P.E.I. rosters were selected a year ago. From there, all of the team members entered into a provincial team-training program.
“It’s like a training contract,” said Sheehan. “They had to compete and train a certain number days a week. They had to train three days a week, and had different competitions throughout the year as well as focusing on nutritional training, sport sciences and things like that.
“All the team members have been on board right from the beginning, and have been working really hard with our coaches and some other outside influences. They are all getting really excited because we are less than a week away.
“They are looking forward to competing next week, and put all that preparation into action.”
Sheehan said one misconception is that Special Olympians do not care if they win or lose.
“We absolutely have athletes like that on the team, but if you talk to some other athletes they care, they care a whole lot,” she said. “They want to do very well.”
Team P.E.I. roster for Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games:
Wayne Dyment, Summerside
Paul Phillips, Summerside
Kevin Ramsay, Tyne Valley
Jenna Smith, Ellerslie-Bideford
Coach: Ann Kilby, Tyne Valley
Caitlyn Barlow, Kensington
Jo-Anne Doiron, Souris
Jennifer Hickox, Charlottetown
Bobbie-Jean MacEachern, Charlottetown
Donna Pyke, Charlottetown
Coach: Ricky Burns, Charlottetown
Terri Cudmore, Charlottetown
John Paynter, Freetown
Jamie Trowsdale, Charlottetown
Jeremy Wall, Summerside
Coach: Jodi Harper, Harrington
Heidi Mallett, Alberton
Coach: Jamie Matheson, Montague
Scott Brousseau, Montague
Rhonda Fall, Georgetown
James Larter, Georgetown
Jason MacCormack, Belfast
Sarah MacDonald, Little Pond
Shelby McInnis, Souris
Alan Murray, Souris
John Rafuse, Montague
Callie Wood, Montague
Alyssa Chapman, Murray Harbour
Coaches: Kyle McGuirk, Vernon River; Lori Byers, Montague; Terry Nabuurs, Cardigan
Billy Acorn, Brackley
Jerred Affleck, York
Glendon Arsenault, Summerside
Lisa Bernard, Charlottetown
Cedric Gallant, Charlottetown
John Anthony Laybolt, Charlottetown
Tommy MacGuigan, Charlottetown
Wallace MacMaster, Charlottetown
Chris MacPherson, Charlottetown
Derek McDonald, Bonshaw
Brian McNab, Charlottetown
Shawn Mitchell, Charlottetown
Aaron Myers, Charlottetown
Greg St. John, Charlottetown
Coaches: Allan Stewart, Hunter River; Jamie Henry, Charlottetown; Richard Douillette, Charlottetown;
Judy Gallant, Charlottetown
Sarah Halman, Charlottetown
Ellen MacNearney, Montague
Roy Paynter, Kensington
Amie Sullivan, Lower Montague
Coach: Sarah Paynter, Kensington
Kolton Doucette, Wellington
Coach: Ross MacIntosh, Westville, N.S.
Charity Sheehan, Covehead
Genna Phelan, Charlottetown
CY Holland, Stratford
Janet Bradshaw, Summerside
Michele Chapman, Murray Harbour