South Okanagan athletes earned 22 medals for Team B.C. in the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Vancouver July 8-12.
KISU swimmer Avery Newton led the pack with five gold medals. Newton won the 50-metre backstroke, the 200-m freestyle, the 50-m butterfly, 50-m freestyle and 100-m butterfly.
“I was so surprised when I got five gold medals,” said Avery. “At the very end, I had a smile on my face.”
Newton said she was nervous in her Canada Games debut, but felt fine once she hit the water.
In all five events, Newton earned best times and said it was her best performance of the season. However, what she enjoyed most about being at the games was making new friends. She received a warm reception from teammates after giving them orange bracelets. She made more than 300.
“They enjoyed them, got lots of hugs,” said Avery, who was also glad to see her teammates perform well.
Amanda Schleppe won two gold medals in the 100-m backstroke and 100 IM F3 division and a silver medal in the 100-m breast stroke. Angela Klein earned silver in the 50-m freestyle F7 and captured gold in the 50-m breaststroke F4 and bronze in the 4×50-m relay. Larry Cavenaile earned silver in the 25-m freestyle M1 and 50-m backstroke M3.
Schleppe, now in Nanaimo for the B.C. Summer Games, was pleased with her achievement.
“My main goal was for personal bests,” she continued. “If I got medals that was good. I just really wanted to push myself to get better times.”
Schleppe, who looks up to Olympic swimmers because of how hard they work, said adrenaline helped her go faster.
“I feel the adrenaline when I get into the water,” she said.
Schleppe also enjoyed the games beyond competing and said it was a life changing experience.
“It was actually cool to go with friends, meet people from different provinces,” said Schleppe, who learned about different cultures.
“It was pretty sweet. It was the best experience of my life. The competition was really good.”
Also enjoying the experience was Jake Huff, a gold-medal winner in 10-pin bowling in M4 and flag bearer for Team B.C.
“I just felt honoured to carry the flag for B.C.,” he said. “It was just a huge experience.”
Huff, who competed in the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in 2010 in London, Ont., said the crowd was unbelievable.
“They were cheering so loud,” he said.
In winning gold, Huff said he performed his best and said he’s more skilled compared to four years ago. The bowlers he faced were just as good.
“Some of them were really awesome bowlers,” said Huff. “Don’t ever underestimate the other bowlers because you may never know what else that they are going to do. Some of them bowled four strikes in a row. Some had five or six. It was just really crazy.”
Huff teamed up with Tyler Zanatta for doubles competition, but they came a few pins short of earning a bronze medal. Huff said they knew they weren’t performing their best, but they are still happy with their fourth-place finish.
Other 10-pin bowling results saw David McPherson place fourth in doubles and sixth in singles in M9. Zanatta was fifth in the M6. In 5-pin bowling, Alfred Wiltse earned a silver medal in M9, while Mackenzie Walker finished seventh in M10. Stephen Lee of the South Okanagan earned a bronze in M11. Summerland’s Carl Richard finished seventh in M15. From Keremeos, Ashleigh Cummings finished fourth in the F9, while Jessica Lehtonen was fifth in F8.
In bocce, Dona Cade and Ray Huson coached the High Rollers and Pirates to gold and bronze medals, respectively. It’s the first time bocce was played at the national level.
“It’s big,” said Cade. “History in the making. It’s the first time it’s gone beyond provincials. It’s huge for our teams.”
Winning gold from Penticton were Margaret Burnell, Lynden Hicks and Chad Conlon.
“I thought that they performed well,” said Cade, whose team won 15-11 and didn’t lose any matches in round robin play.
Conlon said he enjoyed seeing the other teams and how they were coming along. The only thing he didn’t like was facing the Pirates.
“The bad thing is we had to beat our own players to play for gold,” said Conlon of their win against the Pirates, which featured Penticton’s Ariel Eastland, Kevin Ellis and Summerland’s Ida Rebagliati and Princeton’s Mary Sol. “You’re happy you’re winning, but sad to knock them off.”
The highlight of the games for Conlon was what came after their gold medal win.
“It was dousing Dona with water,” he said.
“I screamed,” said Cade, adding she is very proud of the athletes and that it’s a pleasure to work with them. “It was all in fun.”
Conlon and Cade then praised Mona Hazel for everything she does to support Special Olympics.