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Terrace curling team attends the Special Olympics

The team took part in the 2023 games in Kamloops
The Terrace Special Olympic curling team on February 4, 2023. From left to right: Alex Walker, Laura Dale, Janice Sharyk, Donna Hepworth, Hanna Dale, Chris Dale, Jess Hansen. (Photo courtesy of Alexander Walker)

The Terrace team of curlers competed in the recent Kamloops Special Olympic games, which ran from Feb. 2 to Feb. 4.

Though the team didn’t manage to secure a win, coaches Alexander Walker and Chris Dale said the tournament was a great experience.

“Meeting other athletes from other towns, there was a big dance at the end of it all called the Victory Dance, oh it was great. Everyone liked that,” said Dale.

“The Special Olympics is so great because not only is it good for the athletes’ physical health, but it also really can’t be understated how good it is for their mental health as well,” said Walker.

The Terrace team is a long-standing organization, having been established at least 30 years ago, said Dale, who himself got involved roughly 17 years ago, after a previous coach departed.

“I was already involved in other sports and the Special Olympics, and my daughters both participate. That’s how I got started, as a parent and volunteer. Then the curling coaches quit one year, so I just took it on.”

The curlers practice once a week from October, when the curling rink opens, until March. Competition can be hard to come by, so the Special Olympic games are very important to the athletes.

But much like the Olympic games, the Special Olympic games operate on a four-year cycle.

“We have a hard time finding competition here because there aren’t many teams in our area, and the distances are pretty great,” said Dale.

“It’s always really exciting to get the opportunity to travel out of our community, out of our region,” said Walker. “We get to connect with athletes and coaches from around the province that we really only get to interact with at games, just because of how remote we are in Terrace.”

The tournament was made possible by roughly 700 volunteers throughout planning and management, according to Walker, and the team and coaches spending 10 to 12 hours a day at the curling rink.

“Our athletes did a really good job of holding it together and competing their hardest, and having fun at the same time.”

For anyone looking to get involved and support the team, Walker said that volunteers are welcome.

“If you come with a willingness to engage with the athletes, and take direction from the coaches, then we’ve always got a spot for anybody willing to help out.

“Once you get involved and are engaging with the athletes, and coming to practice, and seeing how much they appreciate all the volunteers it takes to put together these programs, it’s very easy to get hooked. For myself, I can definitely say that volunteering with Special Olympics. It’s going to be a lifelong volunteer organization that I’m a part of. Not because anyone’s making me do it — it’s just too rewarding to want to leave.”