Comox Valley athletes and coaches returned from the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games, March 1-5 in Newfoundland and Labrador, with suitcases full of silver medals.
The BC Islanders curling team, with Valley athletes Ken Davidson, Shelley Marinus and Sherri Lines, won silver in the Red Division while the BC Vipers floor hockey team, with local athletes Bobby Bolen, Brad Hogan, Jake Hooper, Joe Grubweiser, Ken Breland, Matthew Cadwell, Max Porter and Terry Daniels and coaches Ed Houlihan, Larry Cagna and Randy James won silver in the Green Division.
“With outstanding efforts by the curling and floor hockey teams in their finals, and terrific racing by the cross-country skiers and snowshoers in their final events, Team BC put a compelling cap on their performance at the first National Games ever to be held in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 47-year history of Special Olympics Canada Games,” Special Olympics British Columbia noted on its website.
“It was remarkable to see all three Team BC floor hockey teams medal in Corner Brook with great play in their exciting final games. First up on Saturday morning was the all-B.C. all-Storm gold-medal final for the ages, with the Vancouver Storm defeating the Kootenays Storm 3-1.”
Next the BC Vipers took the stage for their exciting gold-medal showdown with Team Ontario’s Guelph team, a perennial powerhouse with two World Games championships to their credit. Guelph had defeated the BC Vipers 5-1 in round robin play, but the Vipers played better and better with every game in Corner Brook so they were in top form in their gold-medal match and ready to take it to Guelph.
The game began with the Vipers players from SOBC – Comox Valley, Powell River, Nanaimo, and Kelowna doing an amazing job of tying up the fast-paced Guelph team. The Vipers scored first, jumping out to a 1-0 lead.
But the Guelph team eventually found ways to break through the wall and found the back of the net three teams, cementing a 3-1 victory and an impressive silver-medal finish for the BC Vipers.
Each time the Vipers played this team in Corner Brook, they narrowed the scoring gap. Head coach Randy James felt their gold-medal game was their best game of the tournament, so they have a lot to be proud of.
These results are all the more impressive when one considers the rash of injuries and colds that plagued Team BC players during the week – they battled through injury and adversity to deliver great performances and made their team proud.
In round robin action, the Vipers beat the Manitoba Blue Devils 12-1 and Quebec 5-3 before losing to Ontario Guelph.
In curling, the BC Islanders and Quesnel Lightning squared off in a B.C. vs. B.C. game for the Red Division gold medal. It proved to be a thrilling, seesaw match.
The Lightning struck first, jumping out to a 2-0 lead. But the Islanders players from SOBC – Comox Valley and Port Alberni bounced back to take a 4-2 lead after the second.
Quesnel countered by scoring two to tie the game at 4-4, then added another two to go up 6-4. The Islanders struck back to score one, cutting Quesnel’s lead in half. In the end, the victory and the gold medal went to Quesnel with an 8-5 final score, and the Islanders were handed well-earned silver medals.
Other BC Islanders curlers were Cody and Michael Booth of Port Alberni. Coaches were Cheryl Clay of Campbell River and Art Peck of Nanaimo.
In round robin play, the Islanders defeated Quebec 9-8, lost 6-5 to the Lightning, then beat Newfoundland-Labrador 11-2 and Quebec 8-4 to advance to the gold medal game.
Team BC 2016 was comprised of 126 athletes with intellectual disabilities, 42 volunteer coaches, and 10 mission staff from 31 communities around the province.
“After working hard over the last year both in their sport-specific training and on their fitness and nutrition, Team BC members were very prepared to be at their best in Corner Brook, and they did their province proud,” said Megan Grittani-Livingston, manager of communications for Special Olympics BC.