A lot of Canadian eyes have recently been focused on the Pan Am Games in their backyard of Toronto, but just this past week, another world-class competition was taking place on the west coast of Canada’s closest neighbour.
Los Angeles was the centre of the world for a week for Special Olympians and their supporters from all over the world. They came together on July 25 to Aug. 2 to participate in the Summer Special Olympics World Games, which feature competitive athletes with intellectual disabilities.
Right here on the North Coast, potential Special Olympians practice every Wednesday at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre and the organization has put a call out for a few more volunteers looking to dedicate an hour or two every week for the cause.
“We need help facilitating the sports and to help out if we were to go on a road trip. We need drivers and extra coaches,” said Heather Brown, a Prince Rupert Special Olympics volunteer and coach.
The organization does meet every now and then to discuss upcoming opportunities for the athletes to show their stuff around the region.
“We don’t necessarily always meet every month, it’s just whenever we have something coming up that we need to discuss, but lately we’ve been meeting once per month at the library,” said Brown.
“Special Olympics in Prince Rupert is really struggling with getting volunteers. As a volunteer-driven organization, this is key to the success of the athletes with intellectual disabilities,” added manager of community development for Special Olympics for North and Central B.C Charlene Flood.
For Kris (Fox) Neftin, a Rupert Special Olympian hopeful, the athlete is looking to make the climb to the world stage with practices every week of soccer, basketball and even Bocce Ball with approximately seven or eight other Special Olympics hopefuls on the coastal city.
“That would be nice,” said Fox last week, while participating in a soccer practice, in-part run by Brown.
Fox was realistic, but motivated by his chances of competing in the next world games to be hosted in Graz and Schladming, Austria from March 14 – 25, 2017. Canada will hold qualifying games at the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games at Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be a reality for me. I hope so, that would be great. Only time will tell.”
Fox has been practicing with the group for three years and he’s developed a number of new skills.
“[In soccer] I’ve learned how to make the opponent think I’m going to be shooting one way, when I shoot the other way,” said the athlete.
Among the players Fox has watched growing up, Michael Jordan (basketball) and Ronaldo (soccer) are some of his favourites.
“I like basketball more. My role model is Michael Jordan. I’ve seen a [game] where he was in a match with Larry Bird … I think it was really great the way he was able to do slam dunks and pass to his players. I think if he wanted to, he could be a role model for those who wanted to try out for the sport,” he said.
Like a true teammate, Fox also doesn’t give preferential treatment to any of his mates in the athlete group on Wednesdays.
“I consider the players equal,” he said when asked if he liked having anyone specific on his team.
Fox enjoys a plethora of other sports including mixed martial arts, fencing and Bushido (martial arts).
“[I like] the fact that somebody could actually take down the opponent by flipping him by his arm or using pressure points,” he said, adding while he hasn’t seen the Special Olympics on TV, he’s watched them on YouTube online.
To get in touch with Special Olympics Prince Rupert, call local coordinator Karen Myers at 250-627-1838 or visit www.specialolympics.bc.ca.