Yellowknife speedskater makes Team Canada for Austria 2017 Special Olympics
Cynthia Simmons earned her spot by winning 4 gold at Corner Brook, N.L. Canada Winter Games
A Yellowknife speedskater is getting a second chance to go for gold at the Special Olympics World Winter Games next year in Austria after coming home from the previous games in South Korea with two silver medals.
Special Olympics Canada selected 18-year-old Cynthia Simmons to Team Canada on May 3. Simmons qualified for the games by winning four gold medals in March at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook, N.L.
"I love the sport," she said.
"I love to travel and make new friends, and compete against new people."
Simmons said winning gold in Austria isn't her main goal. It's more important to beat her personal best times.
"If I do what I did in Corner Brook, then I will do well. I broke three seconds off my thousand [metre] time, and I broke two seconds off my 1500 [metre]."
'Work hard, and push yourself'
Simmons has trained in speedskating since she was five years old. She practises three times a week with the Yellowknife Speed Skating Club, and a fourth day with aspiring Special Olympians. She is a role model for the group.
"The message I have is to work hard and to push yourself in the practices," she said.
"If you really want to do the competitions, then try them out, don't be scared."
On top of speedskating, Simmons is interested in public speaking. She said she would like to be a spokesperson for Special Olympics Canada.
In 2013, Simmons gave a speech in French to athletes in Vancouver before departing for the games in South Korea.
"It was really fun but stressful at the same time because you were in front of everyone and were talking in front of everyone," she said.
"But half of these people didn't understand French so that was kind of good."
Simmons said she doesn't shy away from talking about her disability, even though it sometimes make her sad. She was born with a sensory integration disorder that falls under the autistic spectrum.
"Half of my brain is not as normal as a normal human being," she said.
"I have a halfway good and a halfway not good [brain]. So in school I did really well, but at the same time I needed somebody beside me that understood what I had."
Simmons graduated from high school in June 2015. She now works as a teaching assistant in a pre-kindergarten class.
"It's sometimes stressful working with little children, but at the same time they like you and you have to realize to be patient with them."
She said helping out at the elementary school is just a short-term job. She loves to bake and wants to attend culinary school but doesn't want to rush off to college just yet. Her speedskating career is still a priority.
"I want to eventually do the level that Michael Gilday did," she said.
Fellow Yellowknifer and former coach Michael Gilday skated for Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Simmons said she already competes outside of her Special Olympics races, and has medalled locally. She calls them "generic" races.
"I am kind of the same speed as a lot of them. But there is a lot of technique. Every single day there is one thing I need to work on."
Simmons will compete in another "generic" race at the Richmond Olympic Oval in December. She said competing against the country's best can only make her better.
As for Austria, Simmons is excited to receive her Team Canada uniform. She saved her outfit from the South Korean games. It reminds her of the Special Olympics oath, and what the games are all about.
"Let me win," Simmons said. "But if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt."
The games in Austria are in March 2017.