Queens Special Olympian heading to World Summer Games
The 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games will bring together some 7,500 athletes from more than 190 countries to compete in 24 Olympic sports from March 14 to 21.
When these athletes, along with an army of volunteers, family and supporters, assemble in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for a week of friendly competition and fellowship, six athletes from Nova Scotia — including two from the South Shore — will be among the competitors.
Ben Theriau from Hunts
Point, Queens County, will compete in two track and field events, while Bridgewater’s Krista Stockman will be on Canada’s golf team. Her father, Jim Stockman, will also be there as a coach.
For these athletes, the road to the international games began almost two years ago when they qualified at the provincial level to compete in the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games that were held in Antigonish from July 31 to August 4.
Ben was one of eight members of the Lunenburg-queens athletics team who worked their way to the podium at least once during those games last summer. In total, he won four medals — 100 m (bronze), 200 m (gold), 400 (gold), 4 x 100 relay (gold).
Krista placed fourth in the golf competition.
Based largely upon their performances in Antigonish, along with several other factors such as sportsmanship and attitude, athletes were chosen to represent Canada in Abu Dhabi. For the 19-year-old Grade 12 student at Liverpool Regional High School who began competing in Special Olympics three years ago, representing his country at the upcoming international event is a dream beyond anything he could have ever imagined.
“Pretty excited,” he answers when asked how he feels about taking part in the games. “Super excited,” he quickly adds.
While he medalled in four track events at the national games last summer, Ben will only be competing in two at the world games — the 100 and 200 meter. And with an eye to coming home with a medal, he explains he has been training “really hard” for the past several months ever since learning that he had been chosen for the national team.
Nutrition has also been a large part of his training, Ben says, as he has learned to change his eating habits, which, he laughs, basically meant trading potato chips for fruits and vegetables.
It has been a whirlwind of activity, including trips to Toronto for a team inauguration, five weekly training sessions that includes at least one trip to Halifax and Bridgewater and three training nights in Liverpool, while at the same time taking part in local Special Olympic activities and events.
In the midst of all this activity aimed at getting him ready for the World Games, Ben is also completing his Grade 12 year and will graduate in June. Until he recently passed the maximum age limit he was an active member of the local air cadet squadron and he is currently the goalie on the Liverpool Cougars women’s hockey team.
To top it all off, he is also in training to compete in the upcoming provincial Special Olympics Games being held in Aldershot. He is on the Lunenburg-queens curling team and is hoping to qualify to compete in the national winter games that will be held next year in Thunder Bay.
He agrees that he keeps a busy schedule but he quickly adds that he loves it because he loves Special Olympics. Pointing out that he always strives to do his best in the competitions, he notes that he also likes to make friends and he’s really looking forward to meeting lots of new people at the World Games.
While it has been a long road for Ben, his family, namely his mom Corrina, his father Farin and his brother Ayden, have taken the ride with him. But Corrina says it has been worth minute and every kilometre they have put into supporting Ben.
“We have been over the moon ever since we learned that Ben had been chosen for the World Games,” she says. “He has worked very hard and we are very proud of everything that he has accomplished.”
The journey isn’t over for the family as Corrina and Ayden are making the trip to the World Games to support Ben in his quest. Ben will leave for Abu Dhabi on March 4 or 5 and will be there for three weeks. The athletes are going a week early to allow their bodies to get used the climate before the games begin.
Corrina and Ayden will follow on March 10. It’s a new adventure for the trio as none of them have ever travelled outside of the country, but Corrina says they wouldn’t miss it.
In addition to the family support, she explains that Ben’s journey has become a community affair as people have rallied to raise funds to help send his mother and brother to the games. While all of Ben’s expenses are covered by Special Olympics Canada, family and supporters must cover their own expenses to attend.
“People have been very supportive and generous,” Corrina says. “We want to thank everyone who helped make this possible. We can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.”
After Ben returns from Abu Dhabi his next major focus will be getting ready to compete in an invitational youth Special Olympics competition being held in Toronto in May for athletes up to the age of 21. He, along with nine other athletes from Nova Scotia, will be taking part in that event.
After that, he will begin a job in April and will be setting his sights on graduation in June. Next fall, he will attend the Achieve Program at the Nova Scotia Community College in Bridgewater.
“It’s an exciting year for Ben,” Corrina says. “But certainly, going to Abu Dhabi is the icing on the cake.”