It was a great feeling for Deven Fraser to snatch gold in his first big competition.
Fraser, a Pen High grad, was part of the Zone 2 team of South Okanagan athletes who returned home with 25 medals from the Special Olympics B.C. Summer Games in Kamloops, July 6 to 8.
Competing in the 93-kilogram weight class, Fraser set a personal best by lifting 350.5 pounds in a deadlift.
“I have always liked deadlifts,” said Fraser, competing in his first Special Olympics B.C. Summer Games. “It felt pretty great. I performed pretty good.”
The experience of being at his first Games he said was “amazing.” It was different than what he expected in a good way, saying the volunteers were good and other athletes were polite, showing good sportsmanship.
“I felt a little nervous at first, then you get the adrenaline rush and it goes away,” he said. “You don’t really feel anything.”
Fraser got a lift from his family watching and cheering him on.
“They help me lose the nerves,” he said.
It was the first time in many years power lifting athletes were sent from the South Okanagan. Along with Fraser was Penticton’s Alfred Wiltse, who earned silver in the 120-plus weight class and Oliver’s Russell Baptiste picked up silver in the 93-kilogram weight class.
Mona Hazell, of Special Olympics Penticton and 10-pin bowling coach, said the athletes performed very well.
Of the 25 medals won, the majority came from swimmers.
“It was extremely hot there. The swimmers weren’t used to that,” said Hazell. “We are proud of all of them. They worked hard to get to provincials.”
Penticton’s Amanda Schleppe led with five (gold in 50 metre breast stroke, silver in 50-m back stroke and 100-m breast stroke and two bronze in 50- and 100-m freestyle), while Tiffany Bjorndal won two gold in 25-m backstroke, 50-m breast stroke silver in 25-m freestyle. Ryan Kruger won gold in the 50-m freestyle and silver in 25-m breast stroke. Oliver was represented by Tolan Lloyd-Walters, Kyle Sanderson and Alberto Holtz. Holtz earned silver in 25-m freestyle, 25-m backstroke, 50-m back stroke, and 25-m back stroke. Sanderson got a bronze in 25-m freestyle, gold in 25-m backstroke, silver in the 25-m breast stroke and silver in the 50-m breast stroke. Lloyd-Walters won gold in the 25-m freestyle, silver in the 50-m freestyle, silver in the 25-m back stroke and bronze in the 50-m back stroke in his first big meet. Penticton’s Angela Klein earned best times in all of her swims.
Swim coach Marlene Keen was there as a spectator and said their performances were excellent, especially as they dealt with heat and smoke.
“I was so proud of them. All our efforts really paid off,” said Keen.
To get used to swimming outdoors, the athletes went to Oliver and also wore reflective goggles to help with the sun’s glare.
Bjorndal said winning those medals was awesome.
“I feel like I did really well,” she said. “I just expected to compete as best as I could. It was really a great experience. It was also my first time competing in an individual race sport in swimming. It was actually really neat to be able to do a new sport.”
What she enjoyed most of the Games were the coaches, who she said were characters and the “moments that I shared with my teammates, Angela and Amanda.”
The Penticton Bulldogs, which included Summerland’s Jessie Frigon, picked up bronze in 5-pin bowling, while Lynden Hicks and Kelowna’s Dale Ramsden won gold in doubles and picked up silver in the division 4 team event. In 10-pin bowling, Taylor Shea, Jake Huff and Hicks earned silver in Division 3, while Shannon Baker and Summerland’s Carl Richard earned bronze in that division.
Hazel said now they look forward to seeing how many qualify to go to the nationals next year.
Nearly 1,200 individuals with intellectual disabilities gave their all in 11 sports and inspired everyone watching. These were SOBC’s largest Provincial Games to date and a thrilling display of the true power and joy of sport. The athletes advanced through regional qualifiers. Top performers in Kamloops will qualify for spots on Team B.C. for the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Antigonish, N.S., and the 2018 National Bowling Championships in Prince Edward Island.