Christiana Dürfeld thought she might be on the receiving end of a prank when a friend told her she'd be coaching at the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Nova Scotia earlier this month.
But sure enough, she'd been named as one of 12 Team B.C. assistant coaches helping out with the swim team from July 31 to Aug. 4.
"I actually didn't believe it," she said. "I got a text from one of my fellow coaches at provincial games saying 'Congratulations.' I said, 'I don't know what you're talking about' and then I went and looked online. They hadn't even formally told me yet but it was announced publicly.
"'Oh, that's my name right there! I guess I made it.'"
Dürfeld, who has long been involved in the local athletic community with groups like Whistler Adaptive and the local Special Olympics organization, had previously coached at both the summer and winter provincial Games.
"As long as you attended a provincial-level (event) as a coach like myself, you get a form you fill out at the end of provincials saying, 'Hey, would you consider me for nationals?'" Dürfeld said. "You just wait and see whether they want to consider you for the Games and I made the cut this year."
While the atmosphere at the nationals, held this year in Antigonish, N.S., was similar to the provincial Games, Dürfeld said seeing athletes come together from all over the country was a special moment.
"Seeing the entire broad range that Special Olympics really reaches was really incredible for me to see, and to see that it has a major impact across our entire country," she said. "I can't even imagine the feeling you'd get when you go to a World Games."
At the Games, Dürfeld was part of the largest collection of B.C. athletes, as the entourage included 48 swimmers and 13 coaches total.Each of the 12 assistants, including Dürfeld, was assigned four athletes. Since none of her local athletes were attending, she got the opportunity to work with four new charges from across the province.
"I was able to keep in touch with them for the eight months leading up to Games, tracking their training, and keeping in touch with their coaches," she said. "I was able to build a bit of a rapport beforehand, but when it actually came to (the) Games, it was cool to work with athletes that I hadn't built that personal rapport with. They were really great.
"It was really fun to engage with athletes on that kind of level. They trust me because I'm their coach and that's what they've been told, and vice versa. They're my athletes, so I'm giving them my 110 per cent."
During competition, Dürfeld said the coaches were responsible for ensuring that the events ran smoothly, taking on tasks like marshalling, timing, and officiating. Another big part of Dürfeld's responsibilities included taking care of the athletes.
"We were just making sure athletes were staying hydrated. We were going through a heatwave and there was quite a bit of humidity, so that was quite a bit of a challenge for us to deal with," she said.
While Dürfeld said she and the athletes were too busy to check out the other sports, there were some fun opportunities for them away from the pool. Arriving a day early allowed them to attend a mussel bake and dance party at the Crystal Cliffs Beach northeast of Antigonish, while the opening ceremonies featured an appearance from Special Olympics Canada founder Dr. Frank Hayden.
Going international and coaching at the World Games is a goal of Dürfeld's eventually, but it'll have to wait a bit. She's leaving the resort for Australia, where she'll complete her masters in occupational therapy.
"At this point, life is going to take me in a different direction and I have to move out of town for a bit, so I might not be able to stay active with our local (club)," she said. "But once I resettle, I'm going to be getting back involved."