When Kelsey Thomson was asked by her mother what she would dream about tonight, her response was, “throwing my shot put as high as I can, and running across the finish line first!”
Kelsey — a remarkable 25-year-old who was born with Down’s syndrome and struggled with scoliosis before getting surgery at 13 — does not let any challenge stop her from trying new activities and doing what she loves.
The west Richmond athlete is one of four local residents competing this week with Team B.C. at the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Vancouver. (The games provide training and competition to athletes with intellectual disabilities)
Kelsey’s mother, Dawn Thomson, explained that her daughter’s first encounter with the games occurred when walking a Richmond running track as a 13-year-old, as a part of her rehabilitation after surgery.
“One of the coaches for (the) Special Olympics saw us and asked if we have ever considered putting Kelsey in the (event),” said Dawn, who explained that her daughter just had rods placed in her back to treat her scoliosis.
Dawn said she was unsure Kelsey would be able to do much with the rods in her back, but the coach ensured her that all levels are welcome. That’s when Kelsey first signed up for rhythmic gymnastics, and quickly excelled at the sport.
Soon, Kelsey was involved in track, bowling, swimming, and soccer. Her first Canadian Special Olympics debut for rhythmic gymnastics came in 2007 in Brandon, Manitoba, where she proudly brought home a bronze medal.
“(The games) made a world of difference for her, you wouldn’t even know she has two rods in her back… and she can fight just as hard as anybody else,” said Dawn.
This year, after training for months in Richmond and at the Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, along with doing yoga and other sports to supplement her training, Kelsey lost 10 pounds as a result of her dedication.
She’s now raring to get going after a preparation that, according to her mom, involves being treated by her coaches in the same way any other athlete would.
Although Kelsey is back and ready for her second games in Vancouver, she has made a surprising switch from rhythmic gymnastics, and is instead competing in the 100-metres, 200-metres, and shot put.
“...my husband used to be a track star,” laughed Dawn. “She might have his fast twitch genes.”