Athletes compete at Special Olympics Manitoba Winter Games
Nearly 200 athletes took part in the annual games in Winnipeg Saturday
Almost 3,000 athletes have spent the last few weeks taking part in the winter games in Pyeongchang, and this weekend, roughly 200 athletes were competing right here at home.
The annual Special Olympics Manitoba Winnipeg Winter Games were held Saturday.
"We've got some fantastic athletes out there and it's all about them and being a part of sport and what sport does in their lives," said Darren Hemeryck, vice-president of sport and programs with Special Olympics Manitoba.
"It's a catalyst for them in their lives socially and everything. For a lot of them sport is what they have and what they look forward to on a weekly basis."
The games saw athletes compete in snowshoe, speed skating, cross country skiing, and floor hockey at a few different venues including St. John's Ravenscourt School, where the opening ceremonies were held Saturday morning.
Mike Scott is the head coach of the Blue Devils floor hockey team, which took first place in floor hockey at the games. He says many of his players have played on the team together for years and have been playing and practicing since September to get ready for the games, one of three big tournaments they'll play this year.
He says bringing home first place makes all the work worth it for his players.
"They played very well today, they were moving the puck, they played great defence, they were giving it their all," said Scott. "It's good to see them all succeed individually and see what we were working on actually develop out on the court."
The world stage
While the provincial winter games happen every year, it's only every four years that athletes compete for the chance to represent Manitoba at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.
Next year's Manitoba games will be a qualifier for the 2020 national games, and from there winning athletes get the chance to go on to represent Canada at the Special Olympics World Winter Games.
Hemeryck says some of the athletes that competed Saturday have already represented Canada on the world stage.
"We've had some athletes that were here today that were in Austria in 2017 for Team Canada," he said.
"It's always an exciting opportunity for us to have, you know, our local athletes that we see on a regular basis be a part of Team Canada and move onto the biggest sport platform that we have for Special Olympics."
The 2020 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games will be held in Thunder Bay, Ont. and Hemeryck says Special Olympics Manitoba will announce the dates and location of next year's provincial winter games in the coming weeks.