Team Alberta gearing up for Special Olympics Canada Winter Games
Athletes say friendship and networking are as important as the competition itself
Dozens of Team Alberta athletes will be heading to Corner Brook to represent the province in the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games and they were given a huge send off party Friday in Calgary.
Most of the athletes CBC News spoke with, however, are highlighting the chance to meet new friends over the competitiveness of the games.
Speed skater Katie Saunders has been competing for nine years, training three times a week and hitting the gym twice on top of that.
She says representing Alberta, to her, is about beating her own times.
"I love the competition, but not only the competition but meeting new people," the 25-year-old explained.
"Special Olympics is like my second family."
Katherine St. Amand, an alpine skier, trains twice a week and it's paying off.
The 23-year-old just got some great news.
"The fact that I just got bumped up to intermediate this past weekend from novice, at the Snow Valley ski competition that we had," St. Amand tells CBC News.
She says to her, the games are about inclusiveness.
"The fact that no matter who you are, you can always feel like you belong."
Figure skater Kennedy Zaytsoff says she has two main goals from the games, which run March 1 to 5.
"Competing and making new friends," she said.
Zaytsoff, who is 20, started skating at the age of five.
It is her hope to "try to do my best and get a medal," she said.
Wade Watson is into curling. He has been training for three years.
"We have been training two to three times a week, we have practice games, playing with other teams," Watson, 41, explained.
He says he loves the ability to connect with new friends.
"Having fun and meeting new people all across the country," he said.
At the age of 26, David Johnstone has been playing floor hockey for 17 years now.
He agrees that networking with other athletes is a big part of the fun.
"The best part is getting to meet new people, make new friends. To be like the pros basically and just to show that we can do things that other people can do too," Johnstone said.
"We don't have rivalries because we are here to have fun and just to be there and support our team and support our country."
Team Alberta, consisting of 65 athletes and 31 coaches and staff members, leave for the competition in about 10 days.