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NICHOLAS MERCER: Nikki King excels in first Special Olympics Alberta Winter Games

Corner Brook native Nikki King proudly displays her three gold medals from the Special Olympics Alberta Winter Games.
Corner Brook native Nikki King proudly displays her three gold medals from the Special Olympics Alberta Winter Games. - Contributed

Sporting three gold medals dangling from her neck, Nikki King’s eager personality shines, even through the phone. Her words practically dance from the receiver as she recounts meeting new friends, having new coaches and having lots of fun.

At a rest stop in Whitecourt, Alta. Nikki is eagerly answering questions about her time at the Special Olympics Alberta Winter Games held in Calgary over the weekend.

Somewhere between her home in Grand Prairie and the home of the Calgary Flames on Alberta Highway Route 43, Nikki and her sister are chatting with The Western Star.

Aside from calling it the best trip she's ever been on, Nikki is quickly letting us know she loved everything about the experience and is thanking her coaches for all the help they gave her before and during the event.

That isn't surprising. I've covered a couple of Special Olympics events and they've always been highlighted by the overall excitement and camaraderie shown by the athletes.

Every event is an outburst of emotion on the field and in the stands.

Nikki King (right) is shown here with her sister and coach, Kelly.
Nikki King (right) is shown here with her sister and coach, Kelly.

It was the first time Nikki had competed since her family left Corner Brook earlier this year. Her mother Anita retired and moved to Grand Prairie to be closer to Kelly and their brother.

It is -19 C in Alberta today. That means the only time Nikki takes off her medals is when she is outside. To keep the metal warm, she shoves them in her pockets.

"She is proud of them and we are proud of her," said her sister Kelly.

Judging by the energy in her answers, it was probably more fun than any one person should be allowed to have. It is the same personality that made Nikki a favourite in her hometown. Mind you, it isn't always easy to gauge the personality of a person when interviewing them through the phone. You can tell excitement or sadness, but a true measure of personality usually comes from a face-to-face meeting of some sort.

You can see their eyes light up when talking about positive experiences and see them cloud over when it is an emotional subject.

Still, through a telephone more than 5,500 kilometres away, Nikki's exuberance bursts through the receiver.

"I danced like a party animal," she exclaimed when talking about one of highlights of the weekend.

It is safe to say the WinSport Winter Sport Institute had never experienced anything like it before. Nikki made sure to cut a rug to every and any song the DJ played.

From Michael Jackson to Shania Twain, it didn't matter. Eventually, her sister Kelly had to pull Nikki away from the sweet grooves and head for the bus.

If you couldn't tell already, Nikki loves to dance. When she isn't knocking down five pins at a time in bowling or racing down opponents in track and field, Nikki can be found dancing.

When she lived in Corner Brook, she was heavily into Zumba. It is something that has continued in Alberta.

Nikki has an app on her iPad that allows her to run a Zumba routine whenever she feels like it. That means just about every day, she will rip through a routine. It has gotten to the point that Nikki has the all of those steps and their corresponding songs committed to memory.

These Alberta games not only gave Nikki the opportunity to compete in a new environment, it gave her the opportunity to learn from one of her favourite people — her sister Kelly.

When Kelly lived in Newfoundland she wasn't a coach. She just watched.

Just over a decade ago, Kelly moved to Alberta. A year later, she started getting involved in the Special Olympics.

That was 12 years ago and now she is finally getting the opportunity to coach her sister.

Coincidentally, this past weekend also represented the first opportunity Kelly had to watch her sister compete in what she loves.

When Nikki moved to Alberta, Kelly made sure to start an athletics program with the local Calgary club so she could give her sister something familiar to start with.

"We were always close, but it was cool to see her in person," said Kelly. "It meant more."

She got to see Nikki win gold medals in the 100-m, 200-m and 400-m snowshoe events while competing in an arctic temperature of -37 C (before the windchill).

Her fourth event was cancelled because of — and you guessed it – the cold.

The interview is ending and we're both beginning to hang up.

Just before getting off the phone, there is a call for sandwiches. It is almost time for Nikki and her friends to resume their journey back to Grand Prairie.

Chances are there will be more stories told and probably a couple breaks before they reach their final destination.

It won't be all quiet after that though. There is a party planned for supper.

Nikki is sure to dance a little bit more there.

Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at Nicholas.mercer@thewesternstar.com.

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