Athletes at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games came back with a lot more luggage thanks to their Penticton coach Ray Huson.
The 12 cross-country skiers earned 19 medals competing at the Games held in Austria from March 14 to 24. That contingent of skiers includes Tracey Melesko (Kelowna), Francis Stanley (Kelowna) and Justin Sigal (Vernon).
“It makes you really proud to see them come and give their all,” said Huson. “They just gave everything. It was amazing to watch. Really gratifying.”
After being rained out on one day, athletes overcame less than ideal conditions to perform “excellent” as Huson said. The athletes representing Canada trained hard and he said it was exciting to be there cheering them on. Huson found the athletes to be very motivated when it came to competing. The most important thing was to offer support. Being in Austria for that competition was a fantastic experience for Huson.
Among the highlights for him were the medal presentations, which he said were “over the top.”
“The people in Austria were incredibly supportive. The whole experience was really something else,” said Huson. “Opening ceremonies was tremendous. We were outside in the rain. The torch coming down the mountain was fabulous when they came down skiing. That was probably the biggest highlight of the opening ceremonies.”
Team Canada finished the Games with a total medal count of 117 (47 gold, 43 silver and 27 bronze). Huson was very proud of the athletes he spent two weeks living with.
“They represented Canada really well,” he said.
Canadians competed against more than 2,600 athletes for 105 nations.