National media attention will be on sports in Thunder Bay from February 25-29, when more than 1,200 athletes, managers and mission staff from across Canada will be competing in the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games. Added to that will be 60 technical officials, 500 volunteers, 800 friends and family and 50 Special Olympic Canada Family & Sponsors.
The national games are the qualifying event for athletes to become members of Team Canada attending the 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games (originally scheduled for Sweden in February 2021, but another site is now being sought).
The Special Olympics Canada Winter Games are a multi-sport national event for athletes with an intellectual disability. The athletes will compete in eight official Special Olympics sports in Thunder Bay: alpine skiing (Loch Lomand); five-pin bowling (Galaxy Lanes); cross-country skiing (Kamview Nordic Centre); curling (Fort William Curling Club); figure skating (Thunder Bay Tournament Centre); floor hockey (Lakehead University C. J. Sanders Fieldhouse); snowshoeing (Chapples Golf Course); and speed skating (Delaney Arena).
The Honorary Chair for the Games—and the first to join the volunteer roster—is Thunder Bay’s Krista McCarville, a well-known national curler for 23 years who has competed on local, provincial and national rinks, like the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and the Pre-Trial and Trial Competitions for the Winter Olympic Games.
“Accepting the role of Honorary Chair for the Special Olympics Winter Games was a natural decision for me,” said McCarville in a news release. “I feel strongly about spreading the message that just because you may be different, it does not mean you cannot achieve your dreams. I want to assist however I can, to support the Special Olympics athletes in achieving their dreams.”
How did the Special Olympics begin? Well, it’s a cool U.S.-Canada dual story. The Special Olympics movement was founded by American Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of the late President John F. Kennedy, with the first Games held in 1968 at Chicago’s Soldier Field. However, it was the research of Canadian sport scientist Dr. Hayden at the University of Toronto that led him to propose a National sport competition for those with an intellectual disability, an idea that caught the attention of Shriver and inspired the inaugural 1968 Special Olympics. (Dr. Hayden later worked with Shriver at the Washington-based Kennedy Foundation.)
Today, the Special Olympic movement has become the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with an intellectual disability and is “dedicated to promoting respect, acceptance, inclusion, and human dignity for people with intellectual disabilities through sports.”
Worldwide there are 4.9 million involved in year-round Special Olympic programs and about 1 million coaches and volunteers.
In Canada, there are more than 45,000 athletes with an intellectual disability registered in year-round Special Olympic programs, ranging from two-year-olds to adults. At the 2020 Games in Thunder Bay, the youngest athlete will be a 13-year-old alpine skier from Alberta, while the most mature will be a 74-year-old five-pin bowler from British Columbia.
Opening Ceremonies for the Games will be held on Tuesday, February 25 at Thunder Bay’s Fort William Gardens, followed the next day by the Family and Friends Dinner, a buffet-style Italian supper at the DaVinci Centre.
For more information, visit: specialolympics2020.com.