Weyburn's Special O bowlers excited to heading to nationals

The members of Weyburn’s Special Olympics bowling team are excited and happy to be heading to Thunder Bay, Ont., soon to represent Saskatchewan at the Canada Winter Games for Special Olympics.

The team includes Christopher Keller, Elias Pick, Rob Janke, Gerald Langlois and Justin De Roos, along with their coach, JoAnn Paxman, with bowling coach Lynn Quist also heading to the Winter Games to coach the ladies team from Swift Current.

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The bowlers will compete in the singles competitions as well as the team competition.

“They have worked extremely hard all year,” said coach Paxman. “They’ve been training since winning provincials twice a week, plus cross-training once a week.”

She noted they also do other sports to help keep in shape, including weight-lifting, floor hockey and curling, along with eating healthy.

“It’s a huge commitment,” she said. “They’re all super excited to be going.”

Paxman as coached national bowling teams before, but this is her first time to be coaching a Special Olympics team at a national competition.

Asked what they’re looking forward to the most, there were varied answers, ranging from being excited for a change of scenery from Weyburn to meeting girls at the event.

They will be leaving on Feb. 23, with the Winter Games to run from Feb. 25 to 29.

Paxman noted one huge help has been that the trip expenses were all provided within three months of winning the provincial title, which has been a big weight off their shoulders as the team members have been able to focus on practicing and perfecting their bowling technique.

When the coach asked the team members, “What’s the most important thing?”, the team members replied, “To have fun!”

The Special Olympics Canada Winter Games will have a total of 1,200 athletes, coaches, managers and mission staff from all 10 provinces and two territories, about 1,000 volunteers and 917 family and friends also attending.

Of the total number, 845 are athletes in eight sporting events, with 190 five-pin bowlers, including the Weyburn team; there will also be 42 alpine skiiers, 90 curlers, 48 figure skaters, 241 floor hockey players on 16 teams, 79 cross-country skiiers, 103 snowshoers and 52 speed skaters.

For those interested, they can follow @SpecialOCanada and @SOCGames2020 on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or go online at www.specialolympics.ca for updates and competition results. On social media, users are encouraged to use the official hashtags of the Games, #SOCGames2020, #JeuxOSC2020 and #TBay.