Cresteramics Chatter: Creston Special Olympics athletes earn silver in Winter Games

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Terry Nowak is a board member of the Cresteramics Society.

Terry Nowak is a board member of the Cresteramics Society.

Special Olympics plays a big part in the lives of many persons with developmental disabilities, especially a team of floor hockey players from Creston and the lower mainland.

This team consists of Richard and Catherine Cholpecki (who are called assistant coaches but really are mentors, medics, trainers, hosts and travel companions), four athletes from Creston — Cathy Schmidt, Maclean Brown, Steven Sterling and James Warman — coach Derek Taylor from Grand Forks, four athletes from Grand Forks, one from Trail and four from Burnaby.

Their trip to 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games began in 2014 when they qualified to represent their division in the 2015 British Columbia Special Olympics floor hockey finals. They won the gold in this competition and moved forward to the nationals in Corner Brook, N.L., this month. Through this three-year progression, our local coaches and players practised hard, raised funds to cover extra costs and stayed loyal to each other and the team. In all the times I had contact with them I never heard a complaint, a criticism or even a worry. They were always cheerful, excited, positive of their ability to win and eager to compete.

On Feb. 28, the team and coaches flew for 12 hours to Deer Lake and then took four buses to their hotel in Corner Brook. On Feb. 29 they started their routine of breakfast at 6 a.m. at a nearby hotel, bus rides to the Corner Brook recreation facility, walk to the local school hosting floor hockey and then practice, watching other teams play and compete.

Our athletes won all the games in the division they were assigned to and on March 4 played in the gold medal round. They played very well, Cathy took a hit that knocked her to the floor but she jumped up and shouted, “I’m OK!” to cheers from the crowd, James and Maclean played hard and Steven scored a goal. The game was very close and our team won the silver medal. On to medal presentations and closing ceremonies and then the long trip home.

The 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games was a massive undertaking with 600 athletes from across Canada. Over 700 volunteers worked to make this endeavour successful. Richard was full of praise for the organization and volunteers. He also spoke about how his team never complained, were always positive and supportive of each other and fun people to be around.

Richard and Catherine are probably exhausted after their week away and the three years they have committed to helping this team earn a silver medal. Our community owes them a really big thank you.

I am privileged to be able to participate in this special community within Creston.

Terry Nowak is a board member of the Cresteramics Society.