It’s just after 1 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon and a few people are working out in the gym at the YMCA of Western NL Humber Community in Corner Brook.
Over on one of the weight machines is a young man who has been spending an hour or two here, two or three times every week since June.
Philip Beales is training for the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay, Ont. in February.
Beales, 27, joined Special Olympics Corner Brook on Sept. 30, 2013.
He's very good at remembering dates.
“Because I like the sports,” he said of why he joined Special Olympics. “I like the bowling, and snowshoeing, and track and field, gym night and bocce.
“It helps me eat healthier and exercise better.”
As part of Team Newfoundland and Labrador 2020, Beales, who has autism, will compete in the snowshoe races. Joshua Harper of Bay St. George is also part of the snowshoeing team and Michael Budden, also of Bay St. George, will compete in cross-country skiing.
This won’t be Beale’s first time competing for the province at the national level. He was part of the team for the 2016 Winter Games in Corner Brook.
“I like it when you run in snowshoes in races and practicing,” he said, in between sets of arm curls.
Beales said he was “really happy and excited” when he found out he’d made the provincial team.
His goal: “To try my best and have fun.”
His visits to the YMCA with coach Jennifer McGinn are all about getting ready for the Games.
“It helps me be in shape for the races,” he said.
A volunteer with Special Olympics, McGinn is just one of the many friends Beales has made through the organization.
The two always seemed to be working out at the Y at the same time. When she learned he needed a training coach, she offered to help out.
And it’s working. He’s lost 45 pounds and is feeling healthier and stronger.
“He’s also got so much more energy. He wants to be doing this. He does not have to be told to do anything,” she said.
“She works me very hard,” Beales said, with a smile on his face.
McGinn said their time together has made their friendship stronger.
“He encourages me more than I think I encourage him. His spirit is so infectious, his commitment is so infectious.”
On this particular day, McGinn and Beales were joined by a competitor from Team Alberta.
Nikki King, a former member of the Corner Brook Vikings and a good friend of Beales, was home for a visit.
King, 38, moved to Grand Prairie in July 2018, but the two get together to train whenever she’s home.
Connecting with a Special Olympics group in Alberta was important to her after the move.
“I never stopped,” she said. “It’s amazing. I love living in Grand Prairie. I met new friends.”
She’s also been working hard with non-stop training because she, too, will be competing in the snowshoeing races at the Thunder Bay Games.
“My goal is to do my best. I am not letting my team down,” she said.
When McGinn jokingly calls her a traitor, King responds with a giggle that would make anyone smile.
But Beales said he’s not worried.
“That will be good. It doesn’t matter who wins. I’m not worried about winning or losing.”
For him it’s all about having fun.
“And being a good sport.”