Montrealers head to Abu Dhabi for Special Olympics World Games

Sara Daigle, who lives in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, and Lisa McDermott of NDG will represent Canada at the 2019 Special Olympics Summer World Games in Abu Dhabi, which run from March 14 to March 21.

Sara Daigle, Lisa McDermott will represent Canada at event for athletes with intellectual disabilities

Lisa McDermott, left, seen here with her mother Claire Lalande, is competing in 10-pin bowling in Abu Dhabi, two years after beating Hodgkin's lymphoma. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

Sara Daigle can't stop smiling when she shows people the dozens of medals hanging on her bedroom walls.

The 41-year-old from Dollard-des-Ormeaux has gathered an impressive collection of hardware from competing in a variety of sports in the Special Olympics, dating back to when she was just eight.

Daigle is heading to Abu Dhabi for the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games this month, where she hopes to finish on the podium once again — this time in freestyle swimming.

"I just really want her to enjoy the experience and have a good time," says Daigle's longtime caregiver, Tracy Wrench. "Of course, we'd love for her to come back with some medals. We're just very proud that she's representing Canada once again."

Sara Daigle and her caregiver Tracy Wrench show off Daigle's medals, which Daigle has on display in her room. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio)

The seasoned Special Olympics athlete knows what it takes. This will be her second world games.

At the 2005 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, Daigle took home two silver medals and a gold in snowshoeing.

Competing in two world games in two different disciplines is quite an accomplishment, said Louise Fregeau, the West Island's Special Olympics regional co-ordinator.

"I do have some athletes that have done it, but in the West Island, it's rare," she told CBC at the Dollard-des-Ormeaux Aquatic Centre where Daigle trains.

Daigle's swim coach Eric Dunn said she may not be the fastest, but she is consistent.

"If she swims a 1500, she'll swim the same speed in the first 100 metres as she does in the 1500th metre."

"In the last few years, she's hit her stride."

Louise Fregeau, the regional co-ordinator of the Special Olympics in the West Island, says two of her region's athletes will go to the world games this month — only the second time that's happened since she got involved 15 years ago. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

Hoping to bowl a perfect game

In Montreal's NDG neighbourhood, another Special Olympian who trains with the West Island Special Olympics club is preparing to make her mark, two years after beating cancer.

Lisa McDermott, 30, is competing in 10-pin bowling, and she hopes to bowl a perfect game.

McDermott, who has trained to compete in the Special Olympics for more than a decade, had to stop bowling for a few months in 2017 when she underwent treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Now she's in total remission and has upped her training to include bowling extra games after her weekly practices, in order to prepare for this month's world games.

Much like Daigle, she's proud of all the medals she's already won — especially last year's Canada Bowling Championships in PEI, where she clinched a spot for the 2019 World Summer Games.

She's looking forward to being with the other athletes, McDermott says, and "seeing the sights in Abu Dhabi."

Sara Daigle has won dozens of medals over more than three decades of competing in Special Olympics events, including three medals from the 2005 Winter World Games in Nagano, Japan. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

Fregeau, who has been regional co-ordinator for 15 years, says it's only the second time the West Island has sent two athletes to the world games.

But she says simply participating in the games, which are televised, is what it's all about.

"It gives them a sense of pride. They get to be recognized for what they can do," Fregeau says.

The Special Olympics World Games take place every two years, alternating between summer and winter games.

Daigle and McDermott fly to Toronto to join up with the rest of Team Canada before flying to Abu Dhabi in time for the games to kick off on March 14.


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