© Cory Hurley
Len Moores, organizing committee chair for the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games, addresses members of the Corner Brook Rotary Club on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013.
CORNER BROOK — There are opportunities for local athletes to stand with competitors across the country when Corner Brook hosts the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.
Len Moores, organizing committee chair, said the provincial organization is trying hard to send a full complement of athletes to the Games for the first time. That is important to the host province, he said, which is taking on the national event for the first time in its history.
Floor hockey and snowshoeing will be two of the most commonly attended events of the Winter Games for the roughly 1,000 athletes expected, said the veteran coach of multiple sports through his 15 years with the Corner Brook program.
Alpine skiing is one of the smallest events of the Games, and along with curling and speedskating are the biggest challenges for this province to field athletes. However, Corner Brook has the facilities for athletes with intellectual disabilities to start training for these disciplines.
The Corner Brook Curling Club has been trying to recruit Special Olympians, said Moores, as is the Humber Valley Speed Skating Club — the only speed skating unit in the province.
He said there are additional challenges when trying to train athletes with intellectual disabilities.
“In Curling, the athletes have to call the game,” he said. “The coaches don’t call the game for the athlete. The biggest challenge is for the athletes to learn the rules of the sport, but also strategize how they are going to curl.”
During the 2012 Games in Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province without a curling team, according to Moores. He has faith that a full contingent can, and will be ready in time for the provincial qualifier — which is also being hosted by Corner Brook — next year.
Mixed with his feelings of excitement, he is also confident the local organizing committee can piece together the week-long, $2 million event — of which the host committee is responsible for raising $1 million-$1.4 million.
“Corner Brook has continually proven its ability to host such events,” he told members of the Corner Brook Rotary Club Thursday.
Roughly 600 volunteers are needed. Moores said accommodations, travel and meals are expected to be a bigger challenge. With about 1,000 athletes expected and another 500 or so family members and supporters travelling with them, he said accommodations from Deer Lake to Stephenville — or beyond — may have to be used. Then, transportation for all the athletes must be arranged.
The Corner Brook club has between 25 and 28 athletes, one of the smallest of the 12 groups in the province that account for more than 600 competitors. Moores is hoping the Games will serve as motivation for those currently not signed up, showcasing the benefits of sport and participation to people with intellectual disabilities.
“We are hoping it will be a spring board to increased membership from the region and throughout the province,” he said.
The Corner Brook club offers bowling, track and field, powerlifting, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. There are 18 sports spanning both the Winter and Summer Games, which alternate every two years.