Commitment pays off for province's Special Olympians

Kenn Oliver
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Every member of Newfoundland and Labrador team wins a medal at Canada Games

When members of this year's provincial Special Olympics team were selected to represent Newfoundland and Labrador at this year's Canada Summer Games in London, Ont., each one put in writing his or her commitment to living better and training harder.

Corner Brook powerlifter Jackie Barrett won four gold medals at the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games, which concluded over the weekend in London, Ont. - Submitted photo

In return, through the provincial team training program, Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador (SONL) made efforts to get athletes into established gyms to work with coaches in cardio and resisting training, core-conditioning and plyometrics.

"The track team, in particular, used a psychologist who did a session with our athletes on relaxation techniques, focusing, concentration and visualization," explained the teams's athletics coach, Dr. Carmel Casey of Gander.

"Special Olympics is a sports organization and we take our sports seriously."

That serious approach paid off over the weekend when all 28 athletes on the provincial team brought home medals from the London Games. Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province to do so.

"These are the best athletes in Canada," Dr. Casey says of the competition in London, "so until you get there and out on the field of play with them, it's really hard to know what you're up against. You want to temper your enthusiasm with a little bit of realism.

"Our athletes exceeded our expectations."

In total, the team won 39 medals - two more than it collected in Brandon, Man., in 2006, when the results of SONL's provincial team training program were first evident.

Twenty-two of this year's medals - eight gold, six silver and six bronze - came from Casey's track team, mostly by athletes competing in higher divisions.

"Our athletes exceeded our expectations." Dr. Carmel Casey

"Our long jumpers (Matthew Russell and Mike Harris) won gold and silver in the top division," said Casey. "So, right now, Newfoundland and Labrador has the No. 1 and No. 2 Special Olympics standing long jumpers in the country.

Casey says the athletics team were excited on first seeing the Games track facility at the University of Western Ontario and became even more enamoured with it when they started producing top performances.

After Johnny Philpott won gold in his 800-metre final, Casey saw him chatting with teammate Mike Austin.

"I turned around for a second and Johnny said to me, 'I love this place.' It wasn't just the physicality of the place, but they were being successful and posting great times. It was a wonderful feeling and I know that's what he was talking about."

Four of 16 Newfoundland and Labrador's gold medals were won by 20-year-old Corner Brook powerlifter Jackie Barrett in the deadlift, bench, overall and squat. In the latter, he set a new Special Olympics world record in his division.

Organizations: Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador, Special Olympians, Canada Games London Games University of Western Ontario

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Brandon Corner Brook

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  • Jonathan S.
    July 29, 2010 - 09:14

    Coming from an athlete who retired in 2009 (and took part in the 2006 National Competition, winning 2 gold and 2 silver in swimming), I am proud for Newfoundland's athletes on their accomplishments and how well they did in the 2010 Canada Special Olympics Summer Games. Hopefully at least one of the Newfoundland athletes gets selected for the 2011 World Summer Games, and hopefully the team's accomplishments inspired a lot of athletes and future athletes to do well in the future. My congratulations to those athletes!