Special Olympics British Columbia British Columbia

Amazing attitude, abilities among Team BC athletes

27 February 2014

With just over four months to go until the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games, Team BC athletes are working hard in their home communities and have been ramping up their skills and readiness in the 12 training camps held to date.

On February 22 and 23, Team BC aquatics, athletics, and powerlifting athletes took part in action-packed training camps in Vancouver and Richmond, and the second Team BC softball squad comprised of athletes from Langley, Victoria, and Abbotsford was active in Langley in January. Check out more Team BC training camp stories

These awesome athletes are already showing great improvements and great dedication to their training. At the softball training camp in Langley, Head Coach Monique Deakin noticed a lot of enthusiasm as the 14-member team worked through drills with Surrey Storm coaches, mental performance training, and sessions on nutrition and Games logistics.

“It was awesome. Everybody had a great time,” Deakin said. “The athletes performed really well. … At the end of the day, I think they learned a lot.”

Like all the hardworking Team BC volunteer coaches, Langley softball coaches Deakin, Keith Foss, and Robin Foss are active in speaking with their athletes to encourage and follow their progress. Most of the athletes are involved in at least three sports as well as additional physical activity, and their diets are good.

Similar diligence in training and improvements were noted in the many aquatics, athletics, and powerlifting athletes who took part in training camps February 22-23 in Vancouver. The swimmers worked hard in nutrition and mental performance sessions as well as training in the pool, and on the second day they competed in a meet at the UBC Aquatic Centre, giving them an early look at the venue for the National Games aquatics events.

Aquatics coach Sandy Ott noted that SOBC – Campbell River athlete Jesse Shade continues to improve significantly. The youngest athlete on the Team BC swim squad, he is busting with potential.

“I was impressed two weeks ago at the Comox meet when Jesse improved on his best times. Then at the UBC meet last weekend he did it again – all with flip turns!” Ott said. “The hard work and training is paying off.”

Team BC aquatics training camp photo at right courtesy of Heather Young

In the powerlifting camp on the same weekend, the athletes and coaches benefitted from sport-specific, nutrition, and mental-performance training sessions on the first day. The sport-specific work with Joe Oliveira and Bob Hindley of the British Columbia Powerlifting Association was especially appreciated by the team members.

On the second day, the athletes competed in the BCPA’s 2014 Winter Open Powerlifting and Bench Press Championships at the Richmond Olympic Oval, and impressed both the significant crowd watching and their coaches.

“It was really positive. Their attitude and their lifts were amazing,” Team BC coach Ken Saunders of SOBC – Kelowna said at the end of the meet.

SOBC – Kelowna athlete Will Richardson is in a great place to build toward the National Games, Saunders said, as he has lost almost 30 pounds since last year due to diet, exercise, and correct medications. Richardson is doing well in working with a new stance for his deadlifts.

“His focus is really good,” Saunders said.

Other standouts were the resurgent SOBC – Campbell River athlete Dave Devison, who has refocused in his training and who “shone in all six lifts he did [in the competition],” Saunders said, along with Team BC’s two female powerlifters, Joanne Bunnin and Lisa Newell of SOBC – Chilliwack.

“They’re going to be hard to beat,” Saunders said.

“All the Team BC athletes have done really well today,” SOBC – Vancouver coach Gerry Kennedy concurred after the meet. The training camp provided a great starting point, he said, and now the team is turning their focus to setting goals.

And what are some of those goals? “Gold medals for everyone, and personal bests,” as well as having fun, Kennedy said.

SOBC – Vancouver athlete Jan Mareels (pictured at left) is on track and doing really well with his training, Kennedy said, and his strong performance in the BCPA competition offered firm proof of that.

“I can see a personal best come July,” Kennedy said.

While all of the Team BC athletes worked hard over the weekend, only the athletics crew was in action outdoors! They ran through the snow on the UBC track, improving their familiarity with the National Games venue, although odds are they won’t have to deal with snow on it come July.

“It was pretty hard – slushy and wet in the corners,” said SOBC – Abbotsford runner Chris Hamilton, a specialist in the longer-distance events. But he still found the camp to be a lot of fun and quite valuable, including the nutritional work and gym time with experts such as Derrick Johnston, UBC Thunderbirds Head Power/Speed Coach.

“I like what they talked about in the training. They helped me about nutrition stuff to help me be ready for the Summer Games in July,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton is a hard worker who has lost 10 pounds through his training for the 2013 Provincial Games and Team BC, meeting his goal in fitness and in his times on the track. He enjoys training with the other Team BC athletes because of the fun and challenge.

“They’re pretty good runners. It’s challenging when I run against them,” he said.

Gratitude for the village

As Team BC aquatics Head Coach Heather Young points out, none of this would be possible without the entire network of coaches, families, and supporters surrounding the athletes at home as well as with Team BC.

“It takes a village to get each athlete to Games, and I want to recognize there are many players in each village – team coaches, training coaches, parents, siblings, caregivers, friends, employers, and others,” Young said. “We hope you’ll all come to watch the excitement in Vancouver this July!”

One example among many of the amazing dedication of both Team BC athletes and their supporters: The athletics team members from SOBC – North Shore have been driving to Abbotsford every Saturday to train, thanks to their fantastic families who carpool to get them there weekly.

Saunders echoed Young in noting how beneficial it was to work with the BCPA’s Oliveira and Hindley, and how many powerlifters in the Team BC athletes’ home communities have wrapped around their local athletes to offer advice and support.

And these supporters love giving their time to help these dedicated and determined Special Olympics athletes. Track coach Johnston took to Twitter right away after Sunday’s camp, tweeting about “another successful day” with SOBC athletes. We’re so grateful for everyone’s support!

Great Team BC teamwork

Team bonding is an important part of the camp experiences and Team BC process to date. Young said the aquatics crew is really starting to gel.

“Every time we get together, the athletes and coaches get to know each other better and better. By the time the Games are here, we’ll be able to support each other through the competition,” she said.

Deakin saw her team come together well during their first training camp. The SOBC – Victoria players, Kevin Danchella, Jeff Martin, and Derrick Muir, are older and at a slightly different level of play than the 10 Langley players, but “they fit in great,” Deakin said. SOBC – Abbotsford athlete Jesse Scott played with the Langley team at the 2013 SOBC Summer Games and has been embraced too. All the athletes genuinely like each other and are supportive of one another, Deakin said.

“They don’t judge anybody. We’re the team and that’s what it is,” she said.

Nutrition in the spotlight

Along with team bonding, another of the most important advances is the athletes’ attention to good nutrition, making the right meal choices so they can be their best at the National Games.

Deakin has noticed impressive nutritional diligence in the team’s 14 athletes. Her daughter Jade, for example, has been picking salad over pizza for lunch, and choosing carrots when she never would have before.

“I’m eating healthy,” Jade Deakin told Monique.

Aquatics coach Marie Telder of SOBC – Sunshine Coast was “thrilled” to see the swimmers’ interest in nutrition, and was very pleased by their ability to put their growing nutritional knowledge into practice. At lunch during the training camp, several athletes were asking about choices that enticed them, following up on what they’ve been learning to check whether their selections were healthy choices.

At the swim meet, SOBC – Sunshine Coast athlete Christel Jensen spoke with enthusiasm about trying out her nutritional knowledge by picking a healthy and affordable lunch in a mall food court during the camp.

“It’s great that athletes are thinking and asking about nutrition. This is great encouragement to team coaches and training coaches,” Young added.

More Team BC info

More photos of Team BC training here and here

Team BC powerlifter Joanne Bunnin of SOBC - Chilliwack celebrates a clean lift at the BCPA's 2014 Winter Open.

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