Special Olympics B.C. president and CEO Dan Howe announces Tuesday at the Vernon Recreation Centre that the 2019 Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games have been awarded to Greater Vernon. (Roger Knox/Morning Star)

Vernon to host largest Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in 2019

Games to be held Feb. 21-23, with more than 800 athletes expected to take part

Greater Vernon was one of the first cities to offer a Special Olympics program in B.C., starting about 35 years ago.

Yet in all that time, the city and surrounding region has never hosted a provincial Special Olympics Games.

That will change.

Special Olympics B.C. president and CEO Dan Howe announced Tuesday morning at the Vernon Recreation Centre that Greater Vernon has been selected as host for the 2019 Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games.

The Games will run Feb. 21-23 next year.

“We are very, very pleased to be able to come to Greater Vernon for these Winter Games,” said Howe. “The Games are exciting and a motivating experience for the athletes.

“Competitors showcase their talents and the true power and joy of sport, and they open their hearts and minds to the abilities of individuals with intellectual disabilities, changing the way the world sees this population that is too often forgotten or excluded. We know Greater Vernon is home to outstanding venues and volunteers that will give our athletes the highest quality competitive experiences they deserve.”

The Games in Vernon will be the largest Winter Games in Special Olympics B.C. history, thanks to the addition of five-pin bowling, which moves to the winter schedule from its traditional Summer Games slot.

Sports at the Greater Vernon Games will include five-pin bowling, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing and speed skating.

They are the provincial qualifiers for Special Olympics Canada Games.

Special Olympics B.C.’s four-year competition cycle is the centre piece of the organization’s competitive experiences. In the current winter cycle, athletes compete this season in regional qualifiers in hopes of earning a spot to the 2019 Games.

Nobody knows that better than Vernon Special Olympics cross-country skier Justin Sigal.

In 2015, Sigal qualified at regionals in Kelowna to advance to the B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops, where he won a bronze medal in a five-kilometre event. That allowed Sigal to qualify for the Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook, Nfld., where he won a pair of medals to qualify for the 2017 World Games in Austria.

There, Sigal brought home two more medals, silver and bronze.

“The Games in Kamloops were my first important competition,” said Sigal, 28, with the Kamloops bronze medal draped around his neck. “I was nervous, not knowing what to expect. But I skied hard and fast and won bronze. It was my first medal and led me here today. I was stoked about my success.”

Sigal hopes to compete in his hometown in 2019.

“For me, being part of Special Olympics means inclusiveness, teamwork, friendship, travel opportunities, working hard, being committed, dedicated, and having fun,” he said.

The Vernon Games will probably need about 1,000 volunteers and Mayor Akbal Mund has no doubt that number will be easily met.

“I know this community comes out to volunteer,” said Mund. “We never seem to have a problem in our community for volunteers to host these Games. People will come out in droves and we’ll probably have more volunteers than we need.”

The Vernon School District is another partner in the Games, as the more than 800 coaches, athletes and support staff will be housed at Vernon schools during the event.

“We look forward to opening our schools to the athletes and coaches as a place to unwind and focus on their competitions, a place for them to get rest and nourishment needed to perform well and a place to call home during this exciting time,” said school district board chair person Kelly Smith.

“The dedication show by the competitors at these Games mirrors the dedication shown by our students in Greater Vernon.”

The top performers in Greater Vernon will qualify for spots on Team B.C. for the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Games in Thunder Bay, Ont., which will be the qualifier for the 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games.

 

Just Posted

B.C. Lions star helps Nanaimo players hone their game

Emmanuel Arceneaux was guest coach at the Jay Prepchuk football camp Sunday at John Barsby Secondary

Nanaimo projects cited for excellence in building awards

Several projects score with judges in 2017 VIREB Commercial Building Awards.

School district considers new position, drug concerns raised

Assistant superintendent confirms spike in use of a Xanax-like drug in schools earlier this year

UPDATED: Nanaimo man dies after highway crash in Nanoose Bay Friday afternoon

Accident happened just before 4 p.m. near Hillview Road.

Nanaimo’s elementary schools graded by Fraser Institute

Annual Report Card on British Columbia’s Elementary Schools released Saturday, April 21

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Dix says B.C. remains focused on fighting youth overdoses in wake of teen’s death

Elliot Eurchuk’s parents say he died at his Oak Bay home after taking street drugs

United wins in OT, advances in provincial cup play

Nanaimo beats Lakehill 2-1, next up is a matchup against Cowichan

Final week for ALR input

Public consultation process closes April 30

‘When everybody leaves: Counselling key to help Humboldt move on after bus crash

Dealing with life after a tragedy can be the worst part following a loss

Local astronomer to share knowledge about planetary nebulae

Local astronomer explains our sun will one day eject its outer layers to form a planetary nebula

Half-naked shooter guns down four, runs away in Nashville Waffle House shooting

Nashville police say they are looking for Travis Reinking in connection with the shooting

Child’s body found in river downstream from where boy went missing during flood

Three-year-old Kaden Young was swept out of his mother’s arms in February

B.C. VIEWS: Eliminating efficiency for farm workers

Don’t worry, NDP says, the B.C. economy’s booming

Most Read