By Alison Taylor
Whistler has scored another Olympic coup.
In addition to hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the resort municipality has just become the 50 th community in B.C. to create a chapter of the Special Olympics, allowing local athletes with intellectual challenges to train and compete with other Special Olympians.
“The interest in sports is here and so it would just be a natural fit to have another pocket of athletes come out of here,” said Nina Watts, manager of sport and coach development with the B.C. Special Olympics.
It is not clear how many athletes could qualify for the Special Olympics in the Whistler, Pemberton and Mount Currie areas. Squamish, which has a larger population that those three areas combined, has 15 athletes who train for the Special Olympics.
“We don’t have an expectation (on the number of athletes),” said Councillor Tim Wake, who is a part of the new local executive of the Special Olympics. “We just want to get all the ones that are keen.”
To that end the local chapter is hosting a two-hour afternoon information session on Saturday, April 8 for anyone interested in volunteering with the organization, any athletes who may be interested in competing, or any coaches.
“Based on the athletes that we get that come forward we’ll look at what the interests are and then the executive, along with the coaches, will help to book the facilities and get the programs running,” said Watts.
It works like any other sports organization she added, with athletes training for an hour to an hour and a half every week for about 12 weeks in preparation of competitions. There are local, regional, provincial and national championships from year to year.
Watts said it was surprising given Whistler’s athletic focus that the Special Olympics had no presence here. But it just takes one person to be the driving force, she added.
That ‘one’ in Whistler is Vera Davis, whose daughter Marisa has intellectual challenges.
The Davis family lives in Vancouver and come to Whistler most weekends. Here Marisa has honed her skills on the mountains since she was a young girl, first with private ski lessons and then through the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program.
“We were really blessed with the tremendous support we received,” said Davis.
But she wondered about the other people in the corridor who perhaps weren’t as lucky as Marisa, who perhaps couldn’t afford private ski lessons or day tickets on the mountains. What happened to those people?