Queens Spe­cial Olympian head­ing to World Sum­mer Games

South Shore Breaker - - Local - VER­NON OICKLE ver­non.l.oickle@east­link.ca

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.”

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