VERNON - Greater Vernon will host the Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games next year.
More than 800 athletes with intellectual disabilities from all over the province and the Yukon will compete in eight sports.
The 2019 Provincial Games will be the largest to date, according to a release from Special Olympics B.C. The sport of 5-pin bowling is moving from summer to winter, joining alpine skiing, cross country skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing, and speed skating. The participating athletes will be supported by more than 250 volunteer coaches and mission staff, states the release.
“Provincial Games are exciting and empowering experiences for Special Olympics athletes. For many, these Games offer their first opportunity to have the joy of travelling and being part of a team,” Special Olympics B.C. says.
The dedicated competitors will be shooting for personal-best performances, and they will also be chasing the opportunity to advance to national and international levels of competition. Top performers in Greater Vernon will qualify for spots on Team B.C. for the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Thunder Bay, Ont., which will be the qualifier for the 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
Greater Vernon is already home to outstanding Special Olympics athletes, volunteers, and programs, but this will be the first time the Provincial Games have been hosted here.
“In Special Olympics B.C. Games, the competitors showcase their talents and the true power and joy of sport, and they open hearts and minds to the abilities of individuals with intellectual disabilities, changing the way the world sees this population that is still too often forgotten or excluded. We know that Greater Vernon is home to outstanding venues and volunteers that will give our athletes the high-quality competitive experience they deserve,” Special Olympics president and CEO Dan Howe says in the release.
Vernon athlete Justin Sigal, who medalled in cross country skiing in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games and currently participates in alpine skiing, said the Special Olympics has been a wonderful experience.
“For me, being part of Special Olympics means inclusiveness, teamwork, friendship, travel opportunities, working hard, being committed, dedication, and having fun,” Sigal said.
Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund said he’s honoured that Greater Vernon was chosen to host the games in February 2019.
“Special Olympics is an integral part not only for the participants, but the parents and coaches who dedicate countless hours to provide competition for athletes who otherwise may not have the opportunity to excel at the sport they love,” Mund said.
The Opening Ceremony will be held on Feb. 21, 2019, followed by competition throughout Feb. 22 and 23. A Closing Ceremony open only to Games competitors will be held on Feb. 23, followed by a volunteer recognition breakfast on Feb. 24.
More than 1,000 volunteers will be needed to help stage this inspiring event. Volunteer registration details and Games venues will be announced in the weeks to come. Learn more here and find Special Olympics of British Columbia on Facebook and Instagram @specialolympicsbc and Twitter @sobcsociety. The Games hashtags will be #SOBCGames #GreaterVernon2019.
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