Special Olympians prep for provincial summer games

Dave
Dave Mathieson
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AMHERST - Running, throwing and jumping toward their goal of participating in the provincial championships, Special Olympic athletes can be found hard at work every Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon on the Amherst Regional High School sports field.
Curt Speight is in his fourth year of helping coach the team and loves working with the athletes.
"They wear their hearts on their sleeve," Speight said. "They're very compassionate. If one of them falls, they all stop to help the person up."
Speight said the athletes are also very inspiring.
"When you see athletes who are both mentally and physically handicapped fighting to do well, it can be very moving," he said.
He tells of an athlete at last year's provincial championship who had trouble moving his legs and feet while participating in the 50-metre race.
"He wasn't moving very fast but as he was finishing the race, the entire crowd was on its feet cheering him on," said Speight.
"When you see an athlete succeed, it's very rewarding."
The athletes will participate in the Special Olympics Provincial Summer Games from July 17-19 in Halifax.
It is a qualifying year for the nationals, which means the athletes will be competing for a chance to participate in the 2010 Summer Games in London, Ont.
"They did well at the provincials last year and I think we could do even better this year. So the nationals is a possibility for some of these athletes," said Martha Saunders, who is the co-ordinator and one of seven coaches for the Special Olympics in Cumberland County.
One athlete who has made leaps and bounds of improvement since last year is Pugwash's Joey Timmins.
"Joey has improved 100 per cent since last year," Saunders said. "He's gotten into really good shape."
But, as with all sports, the main thing isn't to win, but to participate.
"The Special Olympics gives a whole group of people the chance to participate in sports who wouldn't get to otherwise," said Saunders.

dmathieson@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Amherst Regional High School, Special Olympics

Geographic location: Halifax, London, Ont., Cumberland County

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