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Video: Team Canada train for summer Special Olympics in Richmond

Athletes said Special Olympics help them find friends – even the other half – and let them travel and be part of a community

Eighty-nine athletes from Canada’s Special Olympics team gathered together from all over the country in Richmond last week for a three-day training at Hugh Boyd Park and other locations throughout the city.

This was the last in-person training for Team Canada before they head to the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Berlin, Germany, in June and it marks a long-awaited return to the global stage since the last Special Olympics World Games in 2019.

“Special Olympics Canada chose Richmond for a training camp. They did a great job and it’s a beautiful place, and we are all excited to be here. The weather’s been perfect,” said Steve Dreger, assistant coach for the women’s soccer team.

“Special Olympics gives individuals with intellectual disabilities a sport experience... and enriches their lives through sports. There are so many benefits through sports – confidence, exercise, being part of a community, meeting people, travelling… Special Olympics is giving that opportunity.”

Alyssa Chapman, a member of Canada’s women's soccer team, has been involved in Special Olympics training since she was 10 years old. Having a full-time job, she trains whenever she can find time.

“I love Special Olympics. Because of Special Olympics, I found my fiancé and we have a daughter together,” Chapman told the Richmond News, adding her fiancé is also a soccer player for Team Canada.

“It gave me an opportunity to travel as well. I travelled most of Canada. I went to two other Special Olympics Games – one in South Korea and one in Austria.”

The bocce team is a four-person mixed-gender team. Among them is Jenny Adams, who got into Special Olympics at the age of 12.

“It has changed my life because it was really exciting to get picked for bocce because I train really hard and I’m very excited about it,” said Adams.

Dreger said he hopes people know anyone interested in Special Olympics can find a way to get involved, either by volunteering, coaching or being an athlete.

“There are different types of youth programs... Really, there is something for everybody who is interested. Look on your local Special Olympics website and you can find an opportunity.”