CORNER BROOK — Already one of the city’s most dedicated and decorated athletes, Greg Hall will now get the chance to compete on home turf at the national level when the city hosts the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.
A multiple medalist in bowling, snowshoeing and athletics at the provincial stage, the 40-year-old city man has been involved with the Special Olympics for nearly 15 years. In 2002, he earned gold in shot put at his first national summer games. At the winter games in St. Albert, Alta. last year, Hall won gold in 200-metre snowshoeing before helping his province win two more gold medals in the 4 x 100-m and 4 x 400-m snowshoeing relay.
Hall was among the speakers on hand Tuesday at a press conference at Corner Brook City Hall when the announcement was made. In an address to an audience which included many of his fellow athletes, their families and members of various levels of government, he said now that he’s got a taste of the fun in competing on the national stage, he’s eager for more.
“I had a great experience training for the Games and competing in Alberta,” Hall said. “I am excited about the next national Winter Games being held in my home city in Corner Brook. I hope I make it.”
Anyone who’s seen Hall as he charges through the snow with his easy smile and trademark tenacity, will know that while modest, the local man has every intention of showcasing his skills four years from now.
While he’s made plenty of friends and enjoyed his experiences as a Special Olympian thus far, he admits he gets emotional when thinking about competing in front of his family, friends and what he hopes will be thousands of supporters.
“It gives me chills. Let’s hope we get lots of support.”
With an estimated delegation over 950 athletes, coaches and mission staff, as well as many as 500 families and supporters, Hall isn’t alone in hoping for plenty of help from the community. Athletes will be competing in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, curling, floor hockey, speed skating and snowshoeing. Thus, organizers anticipate as many as 600 volunteers will be required to ensure things run smoothly.
The event will be the eighth national winter competition of its kind and the first such Special Olympics event to be held in Newfoundland and Labrador. Sharon Bollenbach, vice-president, Sport with Special Olympics Canada said after hearing the passion of Len Moores, chair of the local organizing committee and given the infrastructure in place due to the 1999 Canada Winter Games, she has little doubt Corner Brook is the perfect fit for the event.
“Special Olympics Canada is very excited that Corner Brook is the home of the 2016 winter games,” Bollenbach said in a press release. “With Corner Brook’s strong history of hosting winter sports events we are confident (this event) will be an exceptional sporting competition and experience for the athletes, coaches and mission staff participating.”
A native of Manitoba, Bollenbach has experience on past Canadian Olympic committees, as an event manager with Skate Canada and general manager of the Toronto portion of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2007. Still, she said nothing matches the special feeling associated with seeing such committed athletes participating in sport for the right reasons, something she hopes local spectators will embrace in 2016.
“They’ve really travelled along a path to get here,” she said. “They often don’t have the opportunities that you or I would take for granted and there’s something really powerful about that pure joy of being able to compete and participate.”
For more information about the Special Olympics, visit www.specialolympics.ca or follow on Facebook and on Twitter @SpecialOCanada.