Abbotsford is set to be well represented at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games later this month.
The event, which runs from Feb. 25 to 29 in Thunder Bay, Ont., will see a total of 143 athletes with intellectual disabilities and 42 volunteer coaches represent Team BC.
Abbotsford athletes heading to Ontario are floor hockey player Austin Johnston and speed skaters Paige Norton and Chris Hamilton. Local coaches Leslie Bowling (bowling), Bruce Watkins (floor hockey) and Donna Bilous (speed skating) will also be making the trip.
Norton is one of the most decorated Abbotsford-based Special Olympics athletes ever, earning the 2019 Special Olympics British Columbia Athletic Achievement Awards in 2017 and winning medals at both national and international events during her career on ice. She also won the SOBC Achievement Award in 2011.
Norton’s mother, Donna Bilous, was named to the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame in 2018 and has earned several accolades for her years coaching in the Special Olympics system.
Hamilton heads to the Games after a strong performance at the 2019 SOBC Winter Games, in which he earned bronze and silver medals. He also attended the 2004 Special Olympics Nationals in Prince Edward Island and also competes in the SO Summer Games in track and field.
Since qualifying for their spots on Team BC 2020 through their performances at the 2019 Special Olympics BC Winter Games in Greater Vernon, the provincial team athletes and coaches have been hard at work to be at their best at the National Games, training at least three times a week for the last 10 months.
Training has included sport-specific work in local year-round Special Olympics programs, participating in Club Fit, additional fitness and dry-land training, working with sport-specific experts, and focusing on diet and nutrition.
“This is an incredibly well-prepared provincial team. I am so proud of the dedication and effort shown by all of these inspiring athletes, coaches, and volunteers,” stated Michelle Cruickshank, Special Olympics Team BC 2020 Chef de Mission.
“They have been working hard for three years to reach this event, and I know they will do B.C. proud at National Games. Their abilities and their sportsmanship will inspire everyone watching.”