With athletes in training, excitement is building as Grand Falls-Windsor prepares to host its first Special Olympics Winter Games for Newfoundland and Labrador.
The games will be spread over two weekends – Feb. 22-24 and March 1-3.
The first weekend will focus on individual sports, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, with team sports – bowling, curling and floor hockey – to follow.
Michele Rye-Gardner, club co-ordinator for the Exploits Hurricanes, said provincial Special Olympics is overseeing organization, with local clubs focused on making sure athletes are in peak condition to compete.
The club will have 36 athletes taking part in the games, and Rye-Gardner said some athletes have been training twice a week, which will likely ramp up as the provincial games draw closer.
“It’s really exciting for our athletes to have family and friends to be able to come out and watch,” said Rye-Gardner. “So, they are working their hardest to provide a good showing at home.”
The winter games have been traditionally held in Corner Brook. However, Kim McDonald-Wilkes, outreach co-ordinator for Special Olympics Newfoundland & Labrador, said the organization wanted to try and spread the games around the province.
“The only other place we felt confident would have the weather required would be Grand Falls-Windsor,” McDonald-Wilkes said.
Work started last year to secure the games. The venues have been booked, and there will be two opening ceremonies – one for each weekend.
McDonald-Wilkes is expecting approximately 100 athletes for individual sports, and 150 athletes participating in team play.
“This is the pinnacle event for our province and for our Special Olympic athletes,” she said. “There will be a number of athletes trying out for Team NL to represent at the Canadian national games, in Thunder Bay, Ontario in 2020.”