An accomplished athlete, who is sportsmanlike and fearless, Penticton’s Jake Huff will carry the flag when B.C. athletes march out for the opening ceremonies at the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games.
“I’ll be a bit nervous, but I think I can do it,” said Huff.
It is just that same type of determination he demonstrates at the bowling alley why his coaches say he was chosen.
“He is a very good player and a well-rounded person. He is always willing to help others and I think he is a very good choice as flag bearer,” said coach Alice Zornes. “He always wants to do better and looks for ways to do that.”
Huff previously competed at the Special Olympics Canada 2010 Games in London, Ont. in 10 pin. There he picked up two gold medals and a medal for overall pin. Huff fell in love with the game 13 years ago.
“I love the atmosphere inside and the action of the ball going down the lane, hearing the pins drop. It is pretty much everything especially the friends that I make,” said Huff.
The 20-year-old has even taken his game state side. Huff has been to Las Vegas to purchase customized bowling balls at the Gold Coast Casino Bowling Centre and has even picked up tips from the pro shops he visits. He plans on returning when he turns 21 to compete in tournaments with the hopes of turning semi-pro one day.
“Bowling is huge in Vegas and there is so many bowling alleys. They have awesome pro shops and people. It is very cool,” said Huff.
Since qualifying for their spots on Team B.C. 2014 through their performances at the 2013 Special Olympics B.C. Summer Games in Langley, the provincial team athletes have been hard at work with the team training program to help them be at their best at the national games. Huff earned his entrance into the national games by winning three gold medals.
The athletes have been putting in a lot of time and effort in their home communities both on and off their fields of play, logging hours of training in their sports as well as dry-land training, improving their physical fitness and stepping up their nutrition.
When Huff isn’t working in the mornings at his job or attending Okanagan College he can be found in the gym.
“I work out a bit and doing strength exercise to get me fit so my arms don’t get tired, weak and my ball doesn’t go off on me. I also have been jogging a bit to keep fit,” said Huff.
Depending on his performance in Vancouver, Huff could have the opportunity to advance to the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.
“It would be nice to represent Canada for bowling, or any sport. I just want to represent our country,” said Huff, who also plays hockey with the Upper-Dek Vees, golfs and swims.
The Special Olympics Canada 2014 Games run from July 8 to 12 in Vancouver. Out of the 360 members of B.C.’s team, 15 athletes and three coaches are from Penticton. This is the biggest provincial team B.C. has sent to the Canada Games and the first time since 1990 that Special Olympics National Games will be held in the province.
“I think it is pretty awesome we have so many people going. It is a great experience if it is their first or fifth time. It is a challenge to make it this far and everyone should be glad they made it and most importantly have fun and do your best,” said Huff, who is hoping to post higher scores this time around.
Athletes will go for gold in 11 sports; 10 pin bowling, five-pin blowing, aquatics, athletics, basketball, bocce, golf, powerlifting, rhythmic gymnastics, soccer and softball.
Penticton athletes participating are David McPherson, Jake Huff, Tyler Zanatta in 10 pin bowling; Alfred Wiltse and Mackenzie Walker will compete in five-pin bowling; Amanda Schleppe, Angela Klein, Avery Newton and Larry Cavenaile are competing in aquatics,. Ariel Eastland, Chad Conlon, Kevin Ellis, Lynden Hicks, Margaret Burnell and Mary Sol are in bocce.
They will be joined by coaches Dona Cade and Ray Huson.
From the South Okanagan, Stephen Lee will be competing in five-pin bowling. Summerland athletes Carl Richard will compete in five-pin bowling and Ida Rebagliatti in bocce.
TJ Fleming is coaching in five-pin bowling.
Ashleigh Cummings and Jessica Lehtonen from Keremeos will be participating in five-pin bowling.
They are coached by Janet Lehtonen.