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Sunday, Apr. 22, 2018
Corner Brook kind to Sudbury Special Olympians
by Randy Pascal

Corner Brook (Newfoundland) might not be the first place that comes to mind, for most people, as an ideal early March winter getaway. For the Sudbury trio of Marc Sansoucy, Kylie Hocevar and Nadia Bouillon, it was just perfect.

The locals were part of the Team Ontario contingent that numbered some 275 members strong, which made the journey east for the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games earlier this month.

“It’s really nice there, but it was cold,” noted Hocevar, a 25 year-old competing in her second set of Games. Memories of the event were made extra special, for all three athletes, as each one of them returned home with a little extra hardware.

A member of the Ontario team which competed in St Albert (Alberta) in 2012, Hocevar garnered a silver medal in the 200m snowshoe dash, a race that takes a little time to perfect. “We get started in November,” said Hocevar. “We do dryland training.”

“Once the snow comes and we get enough snow, we put the snowshoes on and then we start practicing around the track (at Laurentian University).” A track and field participant in summer months, Hocevar endures the challenges of winter training, her sights set clearly on the goal of nationals.

“It’s pretty hard practicing in the winter, because the snow gets in your face when it’s windy,” she explained. “Sometimes, the coach has to cancel practice if it’s too bad.” Hocevar took part in the 100m, 200m, 400m and relay races, enjoying the mix of competition and camaraderie.

“I went fast at all my races, and won some medals,” she noted. “The most exciting part was the opening ceremonies. There was music, there was a band playing, and lots of things going on. I make a lot of friends when I’m at nationals or provincials.”

A three time participant at the Canada Games, Sansoucy shares Hocevar’s love of snowshoeing. The 54 year old local man proudly donned the gold medal he captured in the 200m distance, along with a bronze medal in the 400m event.

Despite his experience, Sansoucy admits that there is always pre-race nervousness that tends to kick in, just before he becomes completely immersed with the task at hand. “I have butterflies in my body,” recalled Sansoucy.

“I try and take off as fast as I can. I want to get ahead, because I like to win” - sometimes with success, and sometimes with hurdles along the way. “In one race, my snowshoe came undone, but I kept going anyways.”

A podium regular at nationals, Sansoucy has developed a keen sense of the distances that most appeal to him. “I like the 100m and the 200m,” he said. “They’re shorter, and I get to go faster. In the 400m, you have to pace, and then when you get to the 200m mark, then you go hard.”

Pacing is of no concern to Bouillon, the 23 year old figure skating whiz. While the 2016 Corner Brook Games represented her first time at this particular competition, the Rayside-Balfour native did enjoy the opportunity to take part in the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George (British Columbia), as many of the country’s top young skaters embraced the chance to share the ice with Special Olympians.

The fact is that her trip to Western Canada provided Bouillon a solid base from which to build as she prepared for 2016. “I have improved since last year,” she stated. “I have more speed, and more height on my jumps.”

A double bronze medal winner this time around, Bouillon noted a not-so-subtle adjustment from her 2015 routine. “I changed the song, but that’s it,” she said. “The song for this year is Dear Future Husband by Meghan Trainor. It’s a better speed for me, because it doesn’t make me slow down.”

Completing routines in both her solo and two dances event – she performed the swing and the willow – Bouillon has found a way to overcome the pre-event butterflies that challenge her teammates.

“I keep myself calm, it helps me a lot on the ice,” she said. “You just keep thinking that you’re at practice.” And yet beyond the figure skating itself, Bouillon beamed in recalling the closing ceremonies, as athletes poured on to the plywood covered ice surface, and danced with newfound friends to the tune of the rock and roll band on hand.

Some very special memories, for some very special athletes.

Science North
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