CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Paul Phillips has taken part in six Special Olympics national games but never one in his home province.
That changes Wednesday when the 43-year-old Summerside native competes in the tenpin bowling team competition in his hometown.
“I’m very happy,” he said after Tuesday’s opening ceremony at UPEI.
Phillips is looking to equal his career high of 162 but is ultimately just happy to compete and meet new people.
“I enjoy all the friendships between everybody: the athletes, coaches and volunteers,” he said.
Ellerslie’s Jenna Smith said she had an opportunity to catch up with an athlete and a coach she competed with in Los Angeles at the world games three years ago.
“I was so glad to see them,” she said.
Smith hasn’t set any specific goals for this week’s event.
“Just to have fun and compete and not worry about what medal or what (placing) I get,” she said.
The athletes have been preparing for the past 30 weeks, she said, and now the stress is gone and it’s more relaxing.
She said it was emotional to be part of the opening ceremonies for the first Games in Prince Edward Island.
“It’s really overwhelming – in a good way,” she said. “It’s very exciting, and I’m glad everybody is here.”
Chief-Supt. Jennifer Ebert, the RCMP’s commanding officer in Prince Edward Island, and Michael Morris, a Stratford resident and the first Special Olympian to be inducted into the Maritime Sport Hall of Fame, lit the cauldron at the opening ceremonies.
“It was a great feeling seeing the torch lit by one of our athletes,” Phillips said. “I feel happy for him.”
Athletes had a chance to practise at the lanes on Tuesday afternoon and today the competition begins.
Coach Rickey Burns has been to about eight national championships during the past dozen years. He enjoys the camaraderie, sportsmanship and enjoyment that is on display during the event.
“I enjoy the happiness of the athletes and how they join hands with other athletes. Great friendships come out of it,” he said.
Burns said they practise two hours each Monday and 90 minutes every Tuesday from the end of October to be ready for the national championship. He has seen athletes come in with no experience and gradually improve.
“It’s unreal,” he said.
But it’s more than a score that Burns enjoys.
“As long as they’re happy, it makes me happy,” he said.
The athletes and coaches who make up Team P.E.I. for the Special Olympics Canada bowling championships
Wayne Dyment Summerside
Kevin Ramsay Tyne Valley
Jenna Smith Ellerslie
Paul Phillips Summerside
Head coach Ann Kilby Tyne Valley
Jonathan Watts York
Patti Bradley Charlottetown
Degan Hackett West Devon
Donna Pyke Charlottetown
Kaitlyn MacKinnon Charlottetown
Head coach Rickey Burns Charlottetown
Chef de mission Genna Phelan Charlottetown
Manager Lynda Hontscharowicz Charlottetown
P.E.I. schedules at Special Olympics Canada bowling championships today through Saturday in Tyne Valley, Summerside and Charlottetown.
1:15 – Team competition (Summerside).
1:15 p.m. – Doubles – Jenna Smith/Paul Phillips (Summerside).
1:15 p.m. – Doubles – Kevin Ramsay/Wayne Dyment (Summerside).
8:45 a.m. – Individual – Jenna Smith (Tyne Valley).
1:15 p.m. – Individual – Wayne Dyment (Summerside).
2:45 p.m. – Individual – Kevin Ramsay (Tyne Valley).
2:45 p.m. – Individual – Paul Phillips (Tyne Valley).
9 a.m. – Medal ceremonies (Summerside).
At Murphy’s Community Centre
8 a.m. – P.E.I. vs. Manitoba One.
9 a.m. – P.E.I. vs. Alberta Two.
10 a.m. – P.E.I. vs. British Columbia Three.
12:45 p.m. – P.E.I. vs. Ontario Five.
1:45 p.m. – P.E.I. vs. Northwest Territories.
10:15 p.m. – P.E.I. vs. Ontario 11.
11:15 a.m. – P.E.I. vs. Ontario One.
8 a.m. – Semifinals.
9 a.m. – Finals.
1:30 p.m. – Medal ceremonies at UPEI.